TV's Mr Variety is what seaside resort is about

Brian Conley is what the good old days of entertainment in Blackpool were all about.

Monday, 7th March 2016, 2:00 pm
Brian Conley
Brian Conley

The TV and stage star is ‘variety’ in the 21st Century, where the genre is somewhat forgotten.

In a 40-year career, he’s starred in sitcoms, presented his own light entertainment show, hosted the Royal Variety Performance, gone back in fellow celebrities’ lives through new show TV That Made Me, appeared in more than 20 pantomimes, and played a whole string of leading roles on the musical stage – most recently the title role in Barnum, which he described as a ‘one-man show with a company’.

And back in the day, he played every Blackpool venue going – reeling them off, he says: “I’ve done North Pier, the Grand, the Winter Gardens, all of them over the years, with Cannon and Ball, the Grumbleweeds.”

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And he promises his latest tour – Brian Conley: Alive and Dangerous, which comes to Lowther Pavilion in Lytham next week and Viva in Blackpool a month later, will ‘hark back to those bygone days’.

“Comedy and music, it’s what I do,” he said. “There will be a nod to the musicals and a big video screen showing highlights of my career.

“I look at it like a marathon not a sprint, and I’m chuffed to have survived.

“It was an incredible era [when I played Blackpool]. Those big summer seasons aren’t around now, not like when they went on for five months, or when Cannon and Ball did 22 weeks.

“Even pantos are short now, three or four weeks. Producers like to see the place very busy for three weeks rather than dragging it on.

“I’m pleased and honoured to have been part of it, and find it a real shame that it’s disappeared.”

While he’s watched the industry change throughout his own long career, Brian’s not too disappointed to see his youngest daughter potentially set to tread the boards.

When he’s not busy touring or recording for TV, “just being a dad” to Amy, 18, and 14-year-old Lucy, is what he does with his spare time.

“I got to see school productions,” he said. “I think Lucy’s following in the footsteps. She really enjoys it.

“I’ll not push her, but I’m right here behind her if she goes for it. She’s got a good singing voice, so has my eldest Amy, but she’s not so keen to pursue it.

“What I say to Lucy is get into comedy, as there aren’t too many good comediennes, so maybe she would get to do the circuit – but you can’t plan it in this business.”

n Brian Conley plays the Lowther Pavilion, Lytham, on Thursday, March 10, (tickets £23), and Viva Blackpool on Friday, April 8, (£22.50).