Mark Steel is back in town. This time he’s coming to Hastings.
Mark Steel, St Mary in the Castle, Wed 10th October
Review by Andrew Myers

The BBC are coming to town! We’re going to be on telly! What’s that you say? BBC radio? Oh well, still pretty cool I guess.

PICTURE: BBC

Every year on BBC Radio 4, comedian, columnist and author Mark Steel visits six different towns across the UK, creating a bespoke stand-up show about the town, which he performs in front of a local audience.

And on Wednesday 10th October, for show number 50, it was our turn to be subject to his steely wit. (Sorry.)

We were sworn to secrecy by the nice people at the BBC, so we can’t give away his best gags. Suffice to say he’s certainly done his research, putting my own local knowledge to shame – something about a battle?

Much of the humour played on the town’s creative use of festivals as an excuse for getting drunk,
and the antics of maverick local characters. Steel didn’t shy away from controversy – a certain local leisure facility owner, whose tastes lean towards the aureate, got a routine to himself towards the end of the show. But this was gentle ribbing rather than sharp-edged satire, entirely in keeping with the concept of the show as a ‘best man speech, but about a place.’

While it’s possible that a self-selecting audience of Radio 4 listeners may not be the most representative cross-section of Hastings society, the exuberant atmosphere in St Mary’s in the Castle – like Hastings in that it only ‘looks derelict from the outside’ – suggested that Mark caught the spirit of the town accurately.

A couple of us yelped when your very own HIP got a brief shoutout, but it was somehow heartening that the biggest cheers of the night went to a mention of ESK. I wonder what the rest of the country will make of that.


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