A remarkable group of seasoned radio pros are converging on Chichester Festival Theatre for Wireless Wise, an evening of comedy and music nostalgia on January 19.
Demand for tickets has already prompted the addition of a matinee performance – a reflection of the talent that BBC Today programme sports presenter Garry Richardson has assembled. Garry will be joined on stage by Sir Richard Stilgoe, Alistair McGowan, the Rev Richard Coles and Charlotte Green. Together they are promising an evening of comedy and music, a mix of hilarious anecdotes, songs and sketches.
Garry said: “Basically I have known Richard Stilgoe for a lot of years, and last October we both worked on the 60th anniversary of Radio 4 Today programme. I did the warm-up with the audience beforehand, and we did it live from the Cadogan Hall so there was a very large audience there. They were queuing around the block! When I arrived at 4am, they were already queuing!”
Richard and Garry got talking: “We have seen each other from time and time and we said to each other ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to do a show about our radio experiences.’”
And so it came together: “I came up with the idea, but they are definitely the stars of the show. We had lunch and we talked about it, and Richard said ‘What about doing it at Chichester’ because he had done lots of things there in the past. I went to Chichester and had a chat and amazingly most of the tickets, about 80 per cent, sold within 24 hours and so we are now doing the matinee as well, which is fantastic.
“This will be the first time we have done the show. If it goes well, it would be lovely to take it around the country. It will be anecdotes and music. Richard will do one of his funny comedy songs where he gets the audience to shout things out and within 15 minutes he will have turned it all into a brilliant song! And Alistair is such a brilliant all-round entertainer. He is a fantastic actor and in my view he is our premier impressionist. Richard Coles is Britain’s most famous vicar, and my Radio 4 colleague Charlotte Green will be lovely to work with.”
All will have great stories to tell, not least Garry himself. After all, there aren’t many people who can claim to have interviewed a US president live from Wimbledon.
It was the days before there was a centre court roof at Wimbledon, and the commentators/experts were just filling in with old re-runs of McEnroe, Connors and Borg – which is when Garry noticed the newly-ex President Bill Clinton. He espied an interview opportunity and followed the Wimbledon protocol, writing a letter and handing it to an official. 15 minutes later back came the answer “The President of the United States would like to speak to you.”
Tying his tie, Garry was ushered into the royal box. On the way he was phoning his wife, parents, everyone he could think of to let them know what was just about to happen. He was met with two guys in very smart suits. One of them spoke into the secret microphone in his sleeve and 30 seconds later, Bill Clinton walked in: “He just said ‘Hi Garry, pleased to meet you.’
“He has got the most incredible charm. For 15 minutes he was like my best friend. I was never going to ask him anything controversial. For 15 minutes we just spoke. And then eventually he said ‘To think we are sitting here in this wonderful arena.’ Afterwards he said ‘Would you tell me one thing?’ I said ‘Yes.’ He said ‘How did I do?’”