Is Chorley a ghastly place?

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Mark Steel’s Back In Town - Chorley Little Theatre

Some mickey taking of the town and plenty of barbs at UKIP, Royalist fawning and cold callers made for an entertaining two hour show as Mark Steel returned to Chorley on Saturday.

Opening against the backdrop of a photograph of him in front of one of the town’s ‘historic ancient churches’ (the Mormon temple) he interspersed observations of local absurdities with sharp satirical attacks on national issues.

Know for his somewhat left wing views, it came as no surprise that his reaction to hearing the UKIP leader saying he felt uncomfortable listening to a person speaking a foreign language on a train was not ‘I must vote for him’ but ‘this bloke’s completely mental.’

He’s not much of a fan of Royalty either, expressing bemusement at why anyone should care less about what Prince Charles thinks about President Putin or anything else, and why anyone should be excited by what hat the Queen is wearing at Ascot (unless it happened to be a Derby County bobble hat.)

This is all to be expected from a left-wing satirist but Mark Steel does research to tailor his shows to a local audience.

Such as why does everyone go up Rivington Pike on Good Friday? No one knows. We just do it because we always have done. He trawls social media for much of his observations, expressing delight at how outraged people in Horwich were by Chorley Council lighting up ‘their’ Pike, loving the fact that one Twitter user compared the Mayor of Chorley to Putin.

Many will empathise with his frustration as to why there are so many roundabouts in the town, his theory being that an astute roundabout salesman must have persuaded Chorley Council to buy fifteen roundabouts for the price of 10. Leaving aside local matters for a time he offered some pretty surreal advice at how the handles coldcallers who wanted him to claim compensation when he had an accident. This includes pretending to be a Mafia gangster.

He had a little delving into the local history books and he was happy to inform us that a politician in the 1970s had described Chorley as a “ghastly place”, although he added we should take comfort in the fact that Leyland was “only slightly less ghastly”.

Perhaps his quip that a there were unlikely ever to be open top bus tours of Chorley as it would involve not much more than “well that’s the Booths store” was also a little unfair. But his intention is really to make us appreciate the unique little local absurdities that make up the towns of Britain. And after all, one of our endearing traits is supposed be our ability to laugh at ourselves. And there is plenty of laughing at ourselves and others when Mark Steel comes to town.

Mike Dawber