Television and radio star Rory Bremner will be giving a glimpse into his fascinating life as a comedian, satirist and writer at a one-off show in aid of Calvert Trust Kielder on 13 May. Friday’s event, held at the Royal Grammar School in Jesmond, will feature stand-up, unfailingly funny anecdotes and an informal question and answer session.
Rory recently visited Kielder with his family to take his children kayaking and saw the Calvert Trust’s work first-hand. ‘I’ve been aware of them for many years, I’ve been on their mailing list so I hear about the things they do,’ he tells me. ‘I just think there’s something rather wonderful about what they do. I took my children there the other day and it’s such a beautiful, peaceful, part of the world. They do something, not only for people with disabilities, but also for the carers. The carers who look after them for the other 51 weeks of the year, they can get a break, they can recharge their batteries. Everything is about possibilities, about what people can do and about the fun and the adventures they can have; the transformative effect of being able to enjoy things and the effect on confidence and well-being. It’s a really heartwarming place.’
Calvert Trust Kielder aims to enable people with disabilities to benefit from outdoor activities, and it’s something that Rory feels particularly passionate about. ‘Over the years I’ve been moved by the pictures, the testimonials and the updates about their work,’ he explains. ‘I had it at the back of my mind and I think the final spark was when I went there myself. We saw some people arrive to do a course and you could see how much it meant to them. It’s all about having the possibility of doing things that they never believed they might get a chance to do. It’s a change of scenery, it’s an adventure.’
As a popular political satirist Rory’s got several sketches planned, and with the EU referendum on the horizon it’s an obvious target. ‘I’ll do stand-up and then we’ll have a Q and A and have a talk with the people who are there,’ he tells me. ‘I’ll tell some anecdotes and various stories. It’s an Evening With, rather than just purely a stand up performance. There’s a fair amount going on with the EU and politics at the moment. Ant and Dec might get a look in. It’ll be broadly topical, broadly political.’
I’m keen to find out what it is Rory enjoys about political satire and he indicates that there are a number of things that he revels in. ‘I’ve always done voices and impressions since I was a kid,’ he says. ‘I realise that’s twenty years ago, but if you’re going to do that you should do the people who matter, the people who have the power. If you can do voices you can use them for satirical effect. In a nutshell, I love to make sense of stuff and then make nonsense of it. I have to try to understand what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in politics and engage with that and make myself laugh as much as anything else.
‘I think it’s very easy for people to forget. I think satire and political comedy bridges the gap between the politicians and the voters. We’re in danger at the moment of not having a clue who’s in charge and what they’re doing. I think there’s room for everything on television but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be room for satire. There are crises wherever you look, whether it’s the European Union, Donald Trump – there is so much happening. We have the odd panel game and that’s fine as far as it goes but I don’t think there’s real engagement. There’s such a big gap between the comedy that’s happening in the clubs at the moment and what’s on television. Television is quite safe and there should be a place for something which is a little bit more challenging.’
We return to his impending show and Calvert Trust Kielder and I leave him with the final word as he sums up the organisation’s work eloquently. ‘It’s a beautiful charity in a beautiful part of the world. It’s a place of joy and possibility for people who so often are told that their possibilities are limited. That’s what makes the Calvert Trust so special really.’
To book tickets for Rory’s show visit www.northernstage.co.uk or call 0191 230 5151. Tickets are £35 and all proceeds will go to Calvert Trust Kielder