Jasper Carrott remembers his days in Bognor Regis

This September funny man Jasper Carrott and rock star Bev Bevan mark 60 years of friendship - a friendship they are celebrating on stage with their Stand Up And Rock! tour.

They play the Kings Theatre Southsea on Wednesday, May 20 at 7.30pm

“We both went to the same grammar school, and on the first day they sat us next to each other,” Jasper recalls. “My real name is Davis, and it was just the way it worked out. We started talking, and we just got on very well. That was the beginning of a life-long friendship. We go on holidays together all the time.

“Funnily enough, in June at Moseley School they are going to put up a plaque saying ‘Jasper Carrott was a pupil here’ and so on and so on. There will be about half a dozen of us from that year. School is where friendships are made.”

And Jasper has never strayed far: “I live 12 miles from where I was born. I never moved to London. I am very protective of my city, Birmingham. It comes in for a bit of stick, but it is a great place. People think of it as being a dirty, grimy, industrial place, but that’s so far from the truth. In the 60s, they knocked down all the Victorian buildings and built modern monstrosities, but now it’s a very progressive city. It’s lovely to see the city really thriving.”

Plus it’s a place of great harmony.

“We have a very mixed society from all parts of the world, and we never have trouble. We don’t have Asians against whites against blacks. Everyone gets on very well together, partly I think because Brummies are very welcoming. They are the last people to push themselves forward, but they like to welcome people. They really do.

“A couple of years ago, there was a TV programme, and the purpose was to knock Birmingham. They were going to go to Alabama and talk about the problems, the race riots and the fear, and then the switch was going to be that it wasn’t Birmingham, Alabama they were talking about. It was Birmingham, England. But they just couldn’t do it. There just weren’t the problems.”

Jasper likens it to Portsmouth, a place people like to knock, but in fact a great place to be. There was a time, back in his folk club days, when Jasper was a regular on the south coast: “There were seven or eight folk clubs around the Portsmouth area. I was always going down to Portsmouth and having a great time.
“I have always been a comedian. I used to play the guitar and sing funny songs and do a bit of banter between the songs, and that was great. But if I hadn’t developed the comedy, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I would probably have become an obsessive folk singer somewhere on the circuit! The comedy took over, and it was very successful. But it was great playing the folk clubs. If you were doing the cabarets, people were talking and there was bingo and food and drink. The comedy and entertainment came way down the list. But in the folk clubs, it was great. They didn’t have anything to do other than talk to you. So I was going in and talking about city life and the social conditions and my own stories, and it just developed from there.

“Bev was always involve with music right from when he was 16. When we left school we went to a department store in Birmingham and started working together in the same store, but music was always important to him. I didn’t have anything to do with it at that point really. I was always very interested in going to see him play, but I didn’t really start with entertainment until I was 24. I did all sorts of things. I started a folk club, and in 1968 I worked at Butlins in Bognor Regis. I was there for four months, and while I was there I started a folk club for the staff. It was only a small thing, but I used to do a bit of compering, and then when I got back to Birmingham I started my own club, in Solihull actually. I started it in February 1969. It just took off, and it became one of the leading folk clubs in Britain. We had a fantastic reputation. I was there from 1969-1974. By then the comedy was taking over more and more.”