During the heatwave last weekend – but thankfully returning home before the extreme temperatures hit – I had a little getaway to Folkestone in Kent. And my main reason for visiting was to see the brilliant observational comedian Jason Manford performing his new show Like Me at the Leas Cliff Hall. It was a lot easier to get a decent seat there compared to London, where shows for many comics inevitably sell out extremely quickly, plus it gave me a good opportunity to visit and explore somewhere different as well. And a seaside trip was ideal in the hot weather. So I hope you enjoy reading about it all!
I’ve been a fan of Jason Manford for many years, as he’s hilarious and I have all of his stand-up DVDs, which I’ll be reviewing in a follow-up post shortly. He’s multi-talented as well, with good music and acting careers too. Plus he just comes across as a really nice guy, as is apparent from his radio shows, TV appearances, and his regular social media posts on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. In the past he’s even got his followers to be Charity Ninjas, anonymously donating to worthy causes overnight, in order to surprise the recipients with a huge increase in their total when they wake up the next morning.
So I was really looking forward to seeing him live, and he didn’t disappoint. He came out and chatted for a little while to start with, and then introduced his support act Fiona Allen, who took us through to the interval. She’s appeared in various TV shows, including sketch comedies like Smack The Pony and Goodness Gracious Me, and she played Michaela Turnbull in Eastenders for a few months. None of them are programmes I’ve ever got into, but she was good here.
Jason’s never used support acts on his previous tours, but given how badly the comedy industry was affected by the pandemic, he’s been generously giving over some time to different comedians on his gigs during this tour, so they can get a bit of extra exposure that they would struggle to have otherwise. He’s also posted a photo with Fiona and his traditional selfies with the audience on his Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages. You can’t see me, but I am hidden away in the photo that covers the centre part of the auditorium.
Anyway, Jason then came on again after the interval and did the rest of his set for over an hour, which was really funny. As a result of his tour being postponed, he’s been able to mine the lockdowns and the pandemic for a myriad of amusing anecdotes and observations, particularly about being stuck at home with his second wife and his children 24/7, without the benefit of being able to escape the house to go to work. And there were other topics he covered as well, including an amusing aside about what it would be like to have guide cats for the blind instead of dogs, turning 40 and the impact on how his body behaves, an interesting recollection about his first ever attempt to do stand-up at a comedy club with Peter Kay, and a story about a fruitarian with a rather disturbing dietary habit that seems even worse under further scrutiny!
There was also some audience participation as well, not all of it initiated by Jason himself. He did chat to a few people in the front row, and one or two people elsewhere in the room when he was asking about certain things. And then there were some strange hecklers, including a couple of people who tried to interject with jokes of their own (which he batted aside effortlessly, as he was well into his stride with better material than they had), a pedant who tried to pick Jason up on his inaccurate statement that it was the hottest day ever (forgetting that the show is about comedy rather than factual accuracy), and a man who requested to hear the ‘cat in the bin’ story that he and many of us already knew from a previous tour (which caught Jason by surprise as one of the most unusual heckles he’s ever had, as it’s not normal to make requests!).
We also got to have a bit of a singalong as well – which I won’t spoil for future audience members by saying why, but I seemed to be one of the only people in the room who didn’t know the song This Little Light Of Mine. The other earworms he triggered were things I was much more familiar with though, so we all went out with a few tunes stuck in our heads! It was a fun end to a great show, and I’ll definitely try and see him on any future tours.
As for the rest of my stay in Folkestone, I was only there for one full day. It was going to be two, returning on the Monday, but given all the heat and travel warnings I checked out of my hotel a day early and came home on Sunday, which proved to be a wise move given the chaos that ensued during the week.
I stayed at the Best Western Clifton Hotel, which is just across the road from the Leas Cliff Hall – the overhead shot of the theatre in the gallery above is from my room. So it was really easy to get back there after the show. It’s not a hotel I’d stay at again though. Sure, the room was big and reasonably comfortable, with windows you could open wide and a big desk fan, so I was nice and cool, and the staff were lovely. But it feels quite dated and in need of refurbishment, the room numbers are very hard to see as they’re small and poorly contrasted, and the winding staircases and randomly zig-zagging corridors are incredibly narrow, with even the lifts only able to take 1 or 2 people at a time. And the buffet breakfast, while it did fill me up, wasn’t as tasty as those I’ve had in Premier Inns. So the hotel served its purpose, but it isn’t somewhere I’d rush back to, and it wouldn’t say it was worth what I paid. I would have stayed in a Premier Inn in the first place, but the nearest one wasn’t close enough to be convenient.
I did go out for some lovely walks though, particularly along the coast. On my longest walk I went down the Zig Zag Path, strolled alongside Mermaid Beach, took the wooden Boardwalk made from old railway sleepers that takes you on a winding path along the beach, explored the old Folkestone Harbour Station, went all the way to the far end of the Harbour Arm and then back again to go through the harbour area, walked by the very busy Sunny Sands beach, and then used the upper Wear Bay Road to return to base. The views were gorgeous in the bright sunny weather, and there were lots of interesting and unusual artworks along the way, which are part of the Creative Folkestone project. So there were plenty of other artworks I didn’t get to see, but I didn’t have time to follow the trails that they provide all over the town. Then later I had another walk a bit further inland, passing through The Old High Street, a narrow, winding, sloping thoroughfare of lovely little shops and restaurants, although I didn’t have time to go in any.
And when it comes to food, on Friday I had a lovely BBQ Chicken Melt for dinner with a bottle of Angry Orchard cider at The Samuel Peto, a Wetherspoons pub in a beautiful converted chapel. And on Saturday I went to Papas Fish Restaurant, where I had a delicious meal of cod and chips followed by treacle pudding with custard, and the lady serving me there was lovely, so I can recommend that establishment if you’re in the area and like a good chippy.
So I had a nice time in Folkestone, it was great to have a change of scenery, to get the benefit of the sea air to offset some of the heat, and to have a good laugh at a comedy show. I feel like I’ve seen everything I need to there, so I’m not tempted to go back and explore in more depth particularly. But that’s not to say I’ll never return either – there may be other shows at the Leas Cliff Hall that I want to see in the future, and overall it’s a perfect spot for a day trip or weekend break by the seaside, it is beautiful along that part of the coast.