On the way to a gig in Skipton, North Yorkshire, comedian Mark Steel noticed a road sign for a town called Keighley. Later in the show, he asked the audience if the town was Skipton’s rival. The room went chillingly quiet and then one woman, with calm menace, called out: "Keighley is a sink of evil."
"You can just hear it can’t you?" laughs Mark. "I loved the way they all spoke as one. Another woman called out, ‘Mark, we don’t like your jacket!’ and they all cracked up. ‘We’ - like they’d all had a discussion about it and everyone agreed. They were great. It made me think ‘I bet I could do a whole show just on Skipton’."
And so the idea for Mark Steel’s in Town was born, his award-winning Radio 4 programme, now on its third series, which he also tours across the UK. Mark tailors his material to each town and city he plays in, shedding light on each one’s quirkiness and interesting aspects.
"As everywhere hurtles along a route towards being identical to everywhere else, it seems any expression of local interest or eccentricity is becoming a yell of defiance. The elements of a town that make it unique are what make it worth visiting; they change a journey from being functional to being an experience.
"I don’t know what I’m going to say about Borehamwood yet but I bet it’s got a whole load of stuff about it. It’s basically to try and stop the drive of everywhere becoming identical - you’ve seen it yourself, all Tesco, all out of town - the homogenisation of every single town. I’m trying to capture the individuality, the quirkiness and oddness of places."
Mark Steel’s in Town is coming to the Ark Theatre in Borehamwood on Friday, March 16 at 7.30pm. Details: 020 8238 7288, www.thearktheatre.co.uk.