A passion for live: Gyles Brandreth coming to Barnard Castle

  • A passion for live: Gyles Brandreth coming to Barnard Castle
  • A passion for live: Gyles Brandreth coming to Barnard Castle

Viv Hardwick finds One Show reporter Gyles Brandreth In Search Of Happiness at Barnard Castle

BBC One Show stalwart Gyles Brandreth has so many strings to his bow that he offers the opening comment when we chat about his forthcoming comedy tour return to Barnard Castle: “If you go to my website and dig deep, you’ll find answers to every question you want.”

But this man of many words strays far beyond the offer of a five-minute chat “because I have to catch a bus” and reveals how his Teddy Bear Museum led to a decade of primetime appearances on the One Show sofa.

“I began ten years ago by chance because I was selling some of my teddy bears. There was an auction because I’d closed my museum in Stratford upon Avon and the One Show sent along with a film crew and I was offered the chance to talk about my bears. As a result, I found myself taken on as a reporter on the One show. I’m just a dutiful reporter and I go wherever they send me and that recently included the Royal Yacht Britannia and Joanna Lumley in the London Wetlands Centre and I investigated murder in the East End. It’s the very varied life that I love,” he says.

One of the reasons Brandreth is coming back to “Barney” as he correctly identifies the home of The Witham’s Funnywaytobe Comedy Club is to visit the Bowes Museum. “I’ve never been to this amazing venue which seems to be the size of Versailles. Sometimes I see somewhere like this and the BBC allow me to follow it up,” he says.

Brandreth is delighted to have sold out The Witham last year and felt that a return visit was worthwhile. “This time I’m talking about happiness. Last time my tour was With Words. It’s going to be an amazing evening because I reveal the seven secrets of happiness, and the important things for your readers to know is that people who are happy live seven to ten years longer than people who are unhappy. So this isn’t just a show which enhances your life... is lengthens it as well. Seven years of extra life are all part and parcel of buying a ticket. It’s a miracle evening,” he jokes.

The raconteur met up in Dublin with Dr Anthony Clare two years ago when he was doing a BBC Radio 4 series called In the Psychiatrist’s Chair. “He’d done a lot of research on what gets people to be happy and why and he shared with me these seven secrets. They are not quite what you’d expect. It’s not about eating more chocolate drinking more champagne. These are secrets that work for anybody, both young and old, able-bodied, single, disabled. But you have to apply all seven, so the evening is a master class in how to be happy,” he says.

Brandreth admits there is some audience participation which is always something that he dreads himself. “There is a bit of singing and dancing and happiness without resorting to drugs or alcohol,” he says.

The man also known for his 300-plus appearances on C4’s Countdown and his awful collection of knitted jumpers – which he auctioned for charity in 1993 – is delighted to hear that happiness at the Bowes Museum includes an annual Shakespeare performance by the Castle Players in the grounds.

“I’m going to be in a production of Hamlet later this year. I played the role once before, years ago, and was so bad that the audience threw eggs at me. I went on as Hamlet and came off as omelette. But I promise you that the standard of the jokes in the show will be higher than that,” he intones with his customary dry drawl.

The former Tory MP for Chester between 1992 and 1997 claims to have no insider knowledge on what means happiness for party leader Theresa May. “I lost my seat 20 years ago and I have to say that I’m so happy to be out of it. My wife said to me, ‘Gyles, when one door closes in your face it’s shut. It’s over’. I’m not following the election very closely. I have to say that I’m full of sympathy for Diane Abbott. Seriously, never mind people like us having a senior moment, she’s forgetting numbers and walking into that brick wall. My whole career walked into a brick wall,” he says.

Brandreth did reach the junior ministerial position of Lord of the Treasury, which was the role of whip. “I did find that fascinating and the most satisfying and rewarding time of my life. I really enjoyed the role. What I find about politics is that you’re either inside or you’re out. Although I read the papers and have friends who are politicians, I don’t get involved particularly. One of the things about being happy is to have a passion in life. One of the problems is someone like Margaret Thatcher, who I knew as a politician, and her only passion was politics. When she ceased to be Prime Minister the light went out of her life and she became an unhappy person. So we all need to cultivate a passion that goes beyond your working life... otherwise things can go wrong,” he says.

Brandreth’s own passion is “probably” words and language. He points out that the English language is five times richer than French with half-a-million words in the English dictionary while our friends across the channel have 100,000. “And that includes le weekend,” he jokes.

A prediction of happiness after the General Election? “Well, I think Theresa May will be happy and Jeremy Corbyn will be happy because he’ll be let off the hook. The LibDem guy will be happy smoking weed apparently and the Greens will be able to spend more time in the shrubbery.

“I may be telling a funny story in the show about Denis Thatcher. I was sitting next to him when he fell forward into the pudding bowl while I was speaking. I thought he’d died because his glasses broke as he hit the bowl. But it turned out that he’d just fallen asleep. I hope the audience don’t do that, but if they do I least want them to be happy.”

  • Gyles Brandreth: In Search Of Happiness, Saturday, June 10. The Witham, Barnard Castle. Box Office: funnywaytobe.com or 01833-631-107

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