THE STORY SO FAR with author John Orton

It’s been nearly ten years since John Orton wroteThe Five Stone Steps, A Tale of a policeman’s life in 1920s South Shields. (Link below to interview with John in 2018).

I caught up with him recently and asked about his development as a writer over the last decade.

As a young boy I loved hearing my Nan’s tales of Auld Sheelz – you couldn’t shut Gertie up once she got started. When I was given a dog eared copy of Sergeant Tom Gordon’s Memories, which told as much about the folk of Shields in the 20s and 30s as about the job of the polis, it just inspired me to write.

The Five Stone Steps was well received, particularly in Shields with tales of the polis on night-watch having their little pot of whisky tied to the back door of pubs, back street bookies, and the unlucky prisoners turning up in court with black eyes and broken ribs – ‘an unfortunate accident when he accidentally fell down the five stone steps which led into the cells.

I started writing a sequel and needed a last chapter set during the Second World War and the blitz on South Shields. First I discovered Amy Flagg’s photographs of the ruins after the raids which are held in South Tyneside Libraries photographic archive

1930s Holborn, South Shields. pic courtesy of South Tyneside Libraries.

Then I read about the Police Auxiliary Messengers (PAMS) – when phone lines were down during an air raid, lads of 16 and over would be sent out on bikes to deliver urgent messages with bombs flying round their ears.

Mossy Hamed tells the story of the ‘Blitz PAMS’. He’s a lad of mixed race – Arab Da’ and South Shields Ma’ – who rides his grocery delivery bike with his six marras as they live through the first years of the blitz.

Mossy falls for one of the other lads, Jackie – but this is not a modern day story!  Jackie is really a girl who was turned away by the Polis for being a lass so dressed as a lad and got the job.

I really enjoyed writing Blitz PAMs and got straight into my next book ‘A Chill Wind off the Tyne’ whichis about life on the riverside pubs and streets of Holborn, a neighbourhood of South Shields next to the shipyards.

The book highlights the struggle for work of Yemeni and British seamen, the miners strike in ‘26, the burning down of the Casino on the sea front, and the police raid on the pitch and toss schools at Trow Rocks.

After a good break from writing, having the odd bottle of Newcastle Brown and watching the grass grow, I happened upon a press report of Scottish prisoners captured at the battle of Dunbar in 1650.

The survivors of the brutal death march from Dunbar to Durham were sold off as indentured servants, mainly to the colonies, but I was startled to read that forty were sent to work in the salt pans of Shields.

This set me off again and ‘He Wears a Blue Bonnet’ tells of the experiences of six highland Scots who discover life in Shields under Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

It’s been described as ‘a rattling yarn that takes on the life of poor Tyneside fishers, fish wives, keel-men and panners. A salty tale – love in the sand dunes, sweat in the salt houses and dodging the press gang.’

To check out books by John Orton they are available from The Word, South Shields. They can also be bought on Amazon as paperback or Kindle.

Check previous interviews with the author:

DEATH MARCH of the BLUE BONNETS – in conversation with author John Orton | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (

BOBBIES, BOOKIES & BEER – author John Orton talks about the stories of police in 1920’s South Shields | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (

Alikivi   May 2023

GIMME SHELTER: Lowry in the North East

In an earlier post about L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) I talked about the artist frequently visiting the North East, especially Seaburn near Sunderland.

In later life did Lowry look upon the small coastal town as his sanctuary to sooth his aching bones?

Lowry at Seaburn on the North East coast.

Day by day the big fella walked along the beach pausing every few moments to gaze at the sea as if the tide would reveal the answers he searched for. He tried hard to understand but received no answers ‘All I know is that I know nothing’.

He would say to friends ‘It’s all there. It’s all in the sea. The Battle of Life is there. And fate. And the inevitability of it all. And the purpose’.

He would watch the tide coming in ‘What if it doesn’t stop?  What if it doesn’t turn? What if it goes on coming in and coming in and coming in’.

Sitting on the beach stirring gravel with his walking stick he would ask ‘We are like these pebbles. Each as important as each other. We all have a place in the pattern of things. What is it for? Why are we here? What is the purpose of it all?’

Self portrait 1938.

At nearly 80 years old Lowry was becoming frail and prone to suffer from shingles. Ironically a touring exhibition that put him on the artistic map was one which ‘nearly finished me off’.

More than 100 pictures were shown in the 1966 Arts Council Lowry Retrospective starting in Sunderland and taking in Northumberland, Manchester, Bristol, with London the closing venue.

The work was Lowry in all his glory, from a 1906 still life to a seascape drawn from the window of his room in Seaburn Hotel in 1966, he wrote to a friend about the opening in Sunderland.

‘I went in on the Saturday afternoon and a good many people were there and a gentleman wore his hat all the time who I thought was the man who comes in to see about the electricity lights but who proved to be the Lord Mayor. He was very interesting and did say they never had a show like this one before and my expressive face flushed with pleasure at that and we parted great friends’.

Far from being the shy recluse he was at home, at times on tour Lowry retained a sense of humour and played the celebrity, some friends were heard to remark on his character and particular his contrariness. But he still worried about the exhibition.

‘This show has put years on me. It is not painting so much as the thousand and one things attached to the job that is the awful thing’.

‘It takes a long time to paint a picture I get £360 for. After the taxman, dealers commission and framing costs I get £107. Like The Beatles what do they get net? Won’t be very fabulous when everyone’s had their shots at it’.

‘Now I’m alright I can sell the stuff. And the blighters won’t stop buying them, that’s the annoying thing. I will have the Official Receiver “To what do you attribute your failure Mr Lowry?” “The fact I’ve sold too many pictures your honour”. And he’d say “Give him twenty years for foolishness”.

Lowry in the 1960s.

Near the end of the exhibition he fled from his home in Cheshire to the Seaburn Hotel ‘to restore my shattered nerves’. Another journey North leading some journalists to speculate about a permanent move to the North East.

Journalists are queer creatures’ said Lowry. ‘At no time have I ever said I was going to give up my house in Mottram and migrate here to the North East’.

‘Mottram is getting uglier and uglier if that is possible, but from my point of view it is a convenient place to live in as any other’.

There had also been rumours of his retirement, in an interview with a Sunday Times journalist at home Lowry said ‘I might do the odd seascape or a little sketch but I’ll never hold another exhibition’.

Waiting for the Tide, South Shields 1967. pic taken by Alikivi in The Lowry gallery, Salford.

The reporter was sceptical ‘He says he’s not going to paint, but in his back room there were some painted sketches which looked suspiciously like South Shields harbour and the stone piers. There’s also a white sea with a white sky, and a tanker waiting to come into harbour. Perhaps in his retirement Lowry will do for South Shields what Gaugin did for Tahiti’.

Another close North East link was Mick and Tilly Marshall who ran the Stone gallery in St Mary’s Place, Newcastle.

‘I have got used to this area  – there is a very good gallery and they have some good shows. The Tyne is a very alive river with a lot of shipping on it and to watch the ships come in and go out keeps me out of mischief’.

In his later years he was quite happy making frequent visits along the North East coast and found a lot of comfort staring out to sea, again questioning himself ‘Will my pictures live after I am gone?’

Sadly, following a stroke at his home, Lowry died of pneumonia on 23rd February 1976 in Glossop hospital.

Looking for Lowry in Salford Quays 2022.

In the UK there are many opportunities to see the big fella’s work. Here in the North East you can find his pictures hanging in Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery and Sunderland Museum. On the border with Scotland, Berwick has its picture boards on the Lowry Trail, which I visited a few year ago.

Last year I went to the excellent Lowry in Salford and the Manchester Art Gallery, both well worth a visit, and yes he certainly lives on, and on and on. What was he worried about.

Check an earlier post on this site:


Alikivi   May 2023

Research : A Private View of L.S. Lowry by Shelley Rhode.

BARK AT THE MOON  – with Hexham musicians, Slobo & Azere

24 year olds Slobo and Azere from Hexham, Northumberland will be releasing Moonbeams, the lead single from their new EP Open & Endless on 16th June.

It’s an indie-folk/experimental electronic project, we are looking to arrange some gigs this year to promote it explained Slobo.

Slobo taking a break from recording outside Planet Telex, Northumberland.

The biggest influences on my playing style are Nick Drake, John Martyn and Joni Mitchell. I also love some other artists that are not quite as obvious in my sound like D’Angelo, Earl Sweatshirt and War on Drugs.

The last band I saw was The Bagdhaddies in York, a wicked Geordie ska group. Had a proper good wiggle to them with some mates.


After years of trading ideas, the two friends were looking for somewhere peaceful and quiet to record their songs, they found a place in the wilds of Northumberland.

Azere and I went to an old telecommunication station called Planet Telex in Great Whittington, it’s been converted into an Air BnB. It functioned as a brilliant escape to the countryside for the recording process.

It was the climax of many years of song ideas then finally getting to experiment and smash them all out. Old ideas were sharpened and new potions were put into motion, the perfect blend of two crazy visions. The guitars barely left our hands.

Slobo recording in Planet Telex, Northumberland.

Slobo added…Traces of indie, folk, downtempo, breakbeat, and Indian ragas can be found across the seven tracks. The EP Open & Endless is due to be released on July 21st.

I hope the songs can be listened to around the world, personally I like the idea of them bringing comfort and meaning to people in every quiet nook and cranny of the world.

Further info contact:

Alikivi   May 2023

ATLANTIC CROSSING  – with USA Indie Collaborative founder Grant Maloy Smith & Newcastle bluesman Trevor Sewell.

The international debut of a unique musical variety show featuring a combination of award-winning artists from every genre of music will be held at The Cluny in Newcastle on 3rd July 2023.

The show is produced by Top 10 USA Billboard artist Grant Maloy Smith and Emmy winning producer, author and lyricist Eileen Bluestone Sherman.

Eileen Sherman

Although I grew up in the American south a few miles from Alabama, I now live in Rhode Island in the northeast of the USA. Eileen Sherman is based in New York City, she works in Broadway, so that’s the right place for her explained Grant.

We have about 20 artists performing in the show, most travelling to England from the USA. We’re coming in from Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, and North Carolina, with several from your area in North East UK including bluesman Trevor Sewell.

Grant Maloy Smith & Trevor Sewell

Trevor featured on this site back in June 2017.

STILL GOT THE BLUES – with guitarist Trevor Sewell | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (

Trevor talked about the forthcoming show and how he got involved with the IC.

I’d become friends with Eileen and Grant through the Grammys, and was around when they set up the IC. I played at their first event at Kulaks Woodshed in North Hollywood. After playing numerous times in LA and New York at IC events, I asked them why don’t you have one closer to my house – I didn’t really expect them to do it, but now they have.

I just hope the event is a huge success as Grant and Eileen have worked very hard to build the IC into what it is today and there’s really not many places you can get to see so many different acts on the same bill and all for a mere tenner – should be a good night.

Grant Maloy Smith explained…

There will truly be something for everyone at the Cluny when the IC comes to town. The Indie Collaborative is made up of independent musicians and entertainment professionals located around the world. Many members are Grammy nominees and winners, Billboard charting recording artists, Emmy winners, and more.

On the night Grant will perform from his critically-acclaimed album, and award-winning artist Natalie Jean will perform a musical theatre work by Eileen Sherman and her sister Gail Bluestone.

Grant added…There’ll also be Mexican/American singer, songwriter and pianist, Leti Garza, who appeared at the IC’s most recent show at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Jazz Fusion guitarist and composer Noshir Mody will perform. He was originally from Mumbai but now based in New York City. We have Hip-hop/R&B group Levels with Keith ‘Wildchild’ Middleton playing, he rose to fame performing for 20 years in the hit show ‘Stomp’.

Grammy Award nominee Judy Pancoast will take the stage, also pianist Ed Bazel from Nashville who recorded his recent album at Abbey Road studios.

Keith ‘Wildchild’ Middleton

Other artists include Las Vegas Headliner Cecil Parker, Classical concert pianist Lynn Yew Evers, Detroit Gospel vocalist Lawrence Hancock and North Carolina’s Gospel powerhouse, Tanya Diaz.

I’m really looking forward to The Cluny as it means I’ll get to see a lot of my American friends and also showcase my new single ‘Yellow Dog’. An album will follow later in the year said Trevor.

Grant added… Our goal is to spread the word about the IC beyond the USA. We have more than 2000 members, hundreds of whom are located outside of the USA all around the world. We would like to get new members from the UK and become more active internationally.

Tickets are available both on the IC and Cluny website:

To purchase tickets visit:

To join the Indie Collaborative visit:

For more information contact: Grant Maloy Smith or

Alikivi   May 2023

SCOTTISH ROCKS with WinterStorm Artist Liason, Mark Robinson

Once an act has been booked for the WinterStorm Rock Weekender Mark is effectively the main point of contact.

It can be as simple as answering basic queries such as how far the band hotel is from the venue, to arranging UK entry requirements for bands that are coming in from abroad.

I sometimes end up being taxi driver taking them to and from the airport or hotel, which can be quite surreal at times when you realise you have just had an in depth chat with one of your childhood heroes.

pic by Andrew West

WinterStorm in Troon, Ayrshire sits on the beautiful Scottish coast and attracts bands and fans from across the globe.

Audiences literally do travel from all over the world to attend WinterStorm, although in many ways it still feels that we are Scotland’s best kept secret.

We get regular attendees from all over the UK as well as Europe, but we’ve also had people from Central and South America explained Mark.

Robb Weir, Tygers of Pan Tang. pic John McBean

We’ve always tried to offer something for everyone with a nod to the original wave of NWOBHM as well as the newer bands coming through and the more established acts.

There’s been some exceptional acts over the years – personal highlights were standing spellbound watching Bernie Torme and Uli Jon Roth, but for sheer energy, music and stage presence I would have to go with HEAT who were then fronted by Erik Gronwall.

We’ve also had Magnum, Skid Row, Quireboys, Ricky Warwick, Tygers of Pan Tang, Praying Mantis, Tyketto, Bernie Marsden, Diamond Head, Pete Way, Dead Daisies, Wayward Sons, Girlschool to name just a few.

Chantel McGregor

Having been involved with music for many years, Mark has a very eclectic taste…

Current listens include Chantel McGregor, Runrig, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Pink Floyd, Marillion and The Brink. The last gig I attended was the Scottish M2tM heat in Edinburgh.

It’s also important to recognise that every big band now was a small band once, and if we don’t support our local venues then these bands will have nowhere to play and develop, so get yourself along to Newcastle Trillians or wherever is local to you that has live music on and support it.

In the seven years WinterStorm has been operating Mark remembers a stand out performance…

I think the performance that most surprised our audience -although not me – was Blues guitarist Chantel McGregor as not many of the crowd knew her.

To see her bring a packed hall to absolute silence was almost mesmeric – you could literally have heard a pin drop, the applause was thunderous!

But it’s important to recognise and acknowledge that WinterStorm simply couldn’t function without the team behind it – I’m just a small cog in a big picture. Although it was initially Ian McCaig’s brainchild that came into being after talking with Jim Kirkpatrick from FM and Steve Strange.

I often hear people say that it’s ‘a family’ and it very much feels like that, with a very friendly and supportive team of volunteers ensuring that all our guests are well looked after.

The Sound teams, stage crew, bar team, the ‘Stormtroopers’, particular shout outs must go to Team Angus, Simon, Johnny and Claire.

I’ve never heard anyone who has attended WinterStorm say they didn’t enjoy it, and this applies to band members and audience.

WinterStorm 2023.

This year with an extra night, acts booked so far include Michael Schenker, Massive Wagons, Focus, Russ Ballard, Paul Di’Anno, Tygers of Pan Tang & Praying Mantis – and all compered by Tom ‘Godfather of Rock’ Russell and Pete K Mally.

It’ll be a best of the first seven years, bringing down the curtain on our opening chapter. We’ll be back next year with a refreshed WinterStorm providing a new direction and experience on the UK music scene.

Mark added…We’ve always promoted an inclusive event and environment where all attendees can feel part of something special, I think this is reflected in the number of repeat bookings that we get before any of next year’s acts are announced, and the number of bands that get back in touch asking for a return date as they’ve had such a good time.

For further information and tickets contact the official website:

WinterStorm Rock Weekender | Troon Scotland | Annual Rock Music Festival

Alikivi  2023


The Battery has stood guard at the mouth of the river Blyth in Northumberland for more than a century. It’s an impressive array of buildings that acted as a lookout, armaments, storage and an assembly point during World War 1, the Battery also boasted two six-inch guns for coastal defense.

This weekend, May 20 & 21, the Battery is hosting two days of exciting historical activities when it presents Blyth Battery Goes to War. 

Lindsay Durward, secretary of Blyth Battery Volunteers, explained “We are delighted to announce our exciting activities for the weekend. There is something for people of all ages, from children to the older generation.”

Run by dedicated volunteers the weekend will involve a full programme of music, comedy, song and dance and re-enactments from 10am to 4pm each day. Top Northumberland folk combo Beeswing will close the weekend at 3pm on Sunday.

“We take the history of the battery very seriously. One of the main aims of Blyth Battery Goes to War is to put the battery plus Blyth on the map as well as enjoy ourselves.”

“It’s a free event but we would ask everyone to put a few coins in our donation buckets, buy a cuppa in our cafe, tell their friends to come back after the event and talk to us. We are always looking for volunteers to come along and see what we do”.

For further details about the Blyth Battery Goes to War weekend and summer visits, visit the Blyth Battery Facebook page, or contact


or telephone (01670) 368816 or 07904778477.

Alikivi  May 2023

SLADE in the SEVENTIES – with author, Darren Johnson

I was encouraged by the reaction to my Sweet book and began work on one about Suzi Quatro, another big ‘70s icon that I’ve always been a huge fan of. However, the first band I truly fell in love with was Slade said author Darren Johnson.

Originally from the North West, Darren moved to London in 1990 where he spent over twenty years working full time in politics…

My professional background was in politics and campaigning so I’d written a lot about current affairs and had various articles published in the national press – from tackling climate change to building more council housing.

After stepping back from politics Darren moved out of the capital and in 2016 based himself in Hastings, East Sussex.

When I no longer had an endless cycle of meetings to attend, one of the things I was determined to do was go to more live gigs. I started writing a regular blog, reviewing gigs and albums, the music writing grew from there. You can say I came to music writing fairly late in life.

Who are you listening to now ?

I still love all my classic rock – from glam to prog to metal and everything in between. I’ve been really getting into Barclay James Harvest lately and snapping up loads of their albums on Ebay.

I also listen to a lot of folk, too. it all depends on my mood. Newer bands I’ve been impressed with include Scarlet Rebels, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and Toledo Steel.

What inspired you to write about SLADE ?

Early on during lockdown I woke up after dreaming that I’d written a book about glam rock band The Sweet. I felt really proud of myself for all of half a second until I realised it was just a dream.

It did plant an idea in my head though, and later that morning emailed Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond Publishing to see if he was interested – and he was.

The Sweet in the 1970s was released in 2021. In their Decades series Sonicbond Publishing have released a number of extensively researched music books from different authors, bands include Curved Air, Uriah Heep and Alice Cooper.

I was a little kid back in the early ‘70s and while I remember them from that time, it wasn’t until Slade had their comeback in the early 1980s that I really got into them.

I was a young teenager by then and the Slade revival came at the right time for me. As soon as the single ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ came out I was hooked.

A true Geordie hero was Chas Chandler, he was enormously important to the band’s success. After he stopped working with Jimi Hendrix he became their manager and producer.

Chas Chandler was born in Newcastle in 1938 and was founder member and bassist with The Animals. He owned recording studios and labels, and was influential in bringing the 10,000 seater Arena to Newcastle.

(Link below to a snapshot of the life of Chas Chandler in Home Newcastle, posted 8th July 2019).

Unlike with Hendrix, who enjoyed almost instant success with Chandler, it was a long hard slog for Slade. They didn’t have their first hit ‘Get Down and Get With It’ until 1971, two years after Chandler began managing them.

Chas’s role in helping define not only the trademark sound of Slade but the trademark sound of glam should not be under-estimated.

When it came to recording ‘Get Down’, Chandler had the genius idea of adding foot-stomping and hand-claps to toughen up the sound.

That sound became as intrinsic to glam rock as the moment Marc Bolan put glitter on his cheeks that same year. It was a sound that other producers of the era like Phil Wainman, Mike Chapman and Mike Leander would follow.

When researching the book did you come across anything unexpected?

I was familiar with Slade’s history and was well aware of the struggles they faced in the second half of the 1970s as the glam scene faded from fashion and were no longer flavour of the month.

But until I spent time in the British Library trawling through back issues of Sounds, Melody Maker and NME, I didn’t realise how vitriolic some of the music journalists where. One Sounds reviewer wrote that if he had written songs as bad as Slade, he’d commit suicide.

But once Slade had their comeback after a spectacular performance at Reading festival in 1980 – where they stepped in at the last minute after Ozzy Osbourne pulled out – the very same papers were raving about Slade once again.

What do the members of Slade think about the book ?

I’ve interviewed both Don Powell and Jim Lea in recent years and insights from those interviews appear in the book. Along with archive material from reviews, interviews and news stories, plus reflections from individual Slade fans. I will try and make sure Noddy, Dave, Jim and Don all get a copy of the book though!

Have you any plans for another book ?

I ended up writing three books in just over two years so made a decision to wait until this one came out before thinking about any more.

Writing and researching is a hugely rewarding and enjoyable process for me but I didn’t want it to become like a conveyor belt. I thought it would be sensible to let this one come out before I started another. I’ve had various ideas but not made any firm commitments yet.

In the meantime I’ve been writing various things for my blog and doing some PR work for a number of artists. I handled the tour publicity for the recent Lust For Life Tour which brought together Glen Matlock, Clem Burke, Katie Puckrik and others to celebrate Iggy Pop’s classic album with a series of gigs, which was a brilliant thing to work on.

Are you going to any gigs soon ?

I’m seeing Francis Rossi doing one of his talk shows in Hastings soon and I’ve also got tickets for Iggy Pop and Blondie at Crystal Palace in July.

Check the Amazon official website to purchase Slade in the 1970s release date 26th May 2023.

Read Darren’s music blog at:

For more information about Sonicbond publishing:

Contact Darren Johnson Writing, Music PR, Campaigns & Communications Support at Crowflies Communications


Chas Chandler : HOME NEWCASTLE – snapshot from the life of musician, manager and record producer Chas Chandler 1938-96. | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (

Alikivi  April 2023


When it’s finally time to leave the stage all entertainers would love to go out at the top and Sunderland born comedian Bobby Thompson was no exception.

At his peak performing in North East clubs, punters were packed in like sardines and in 1985 Bobby was interviewed on BBC TV’s Wogan Show.

But is there a reminder of his achievements anywhere in the North East, and what happened to Bobby? There is a story that he had a statue given to him by The Little Waster pub in Wallsend after it closed down.

One night Bobby was broken into, cash, jewellery, and gold records were bagged, but after opening a cupboard and seeing his statue the burglars fled empty handed after realising who the house belonged to.

The life of Bobby, aka The Little Waster, features in A Private Audience by Dave Nicolson. The book is packed with interviews from fellow performers, managers and family members, with a foreword by comedian Ken Dodd…

‘To have an audience in uproar, to help them forget their everyday problems and worries, if only for an evening, is an experience to treasure’.

Former manager Brian Shelley remembers…

At the height of popularity his fee in the clubs was between £300-£500 a night. He did theatres for £1,000 for an eighteen minute slot. He was riding the crest of a wave. Bobby had it all going for him in 1978 with his record out’.

Some people interviewed on this site have mentioned seeing Bobby’s act or working with him. Back in October 2019, David Wood, boss of Wallsend’s Impulse studio, told me a story with a surprising ending.

I knew his manager Brian Shelley, he said Bobby is doing really well around the clubs do you fancy recording him ? I thought yeah we’ll give it a go.

We recorded him in Rhyope Club and Newcastle Mayfair around 1978. It was around an hours recording we put out and got Vaux breweries to sponsor it. Ironically Bobby didn’t drink then and there he was on a promo poster with a pint of beer.

Soon as we put the record out it took off, straight to number one in the local charts. Every shop was selling bucket loads, they couldn’t get enough off it. It was phenomenal.

With the profit from Bobby’s album the studio came on in leaps and bounds. We started the Neat heavy metal record label as an alternative to what we were doing.

We released a couple of singles then the Tygers of Pan Tang, Raven and Fist came along and suddenly we’ve got what became a New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Venom added to that and before we knew it we’ve built up a library of heavy metal singles. So yeah we’ve got to thank Bobby for Neat records.

Actor & musician Pete Peverly

In September 2019 I talked to actor and musician Pete Peverly who performs as Bobby in a tribute show. If he had a posh accent would he have appeared a lot more on TV and topped the bill on UK tours ?

His accent wasn‘t just Geordie it was Pitmatic, that’s very strong, and yes it was a barrier but one of the reasons why he didn’t make it outside the region was because I think he didn’t want to, he had everything up here.

He might have had more ambition in the early part of his career when he was doing Wot Cheor Geordie for the BBC. Maybe he thought about pushing it further but certainly not during the ‘70s.

All the other regional comics and entertainers who made it nationally were all-rounders, actors, comedians, song and dance men, Bobby wasn’t. He was a pit comedian from the Durham coalfields talking specifically to that community.

Actor, writer & theatre producer Leah Bell

One performer who worked with Bobby was actor, writer and theatre producer Leah Bell. I talked to Leah back in July 2021 and asked her what was he like to work with?

I worked with Bobby Thompson a lot, he was a nice man. His act was of its time, the poverty, the war – very funny.

We done a panto in Newcastle Theatre Royal with David Jason (Only Fools and Horses). David didn’t know Bobby Thompson at all, Bobby never rehearsed with us, there was no interaction.

So Bobby done his cabaret piece at the start of act two, and afterwards backstage would shuffle around saying hello to people.

David used to say to me ‘What a shame for that old fella, fancy having to work at his age, I’ve just given him some money for a cup of tea’. I said ‘What ! He gets dropped off in a limousine (laughs)’. 

One night David said ‘He’s never in the finale, it’s nice of the theatre to let him go early, he must be tired’. Really, Bobby was doubling up and playing the late spot at Newcastle Mayfair.

Bobby had great delivery, clear, distinctive and not draggy. It can sound like he’s just talking along but it’s not, it’s very precise. He was a one off.

Comedian, Bobby Pattinson

Another North East comedian, Bobby Pattinson, is interviewed in the book.

‘Over the years I gave him bookings at my club. I never saw him as a rival, but regarded him as a friend even though people told me he didn’t have a good word for me’.

‘Most North East comics were content to go on stage in any order, Bobby always wanted to be last, he interpreted that as top of the bill. But he wasn’t as successful as I hoped when I booked him in December 1981 and had to cancel sixteen shows’.

In his detailed introduction, author Dave Nicolson tells us…

‘Bobby had success and money through the golden years, but he also had loneliness. The last few years were embarrassing for him, empty tables and chairs told him the harsh truth. Even the examiner at his bankruptcy hearing in 1986 was kind and considerate’.

‘Having lost the company of an audience his feeling of loneliness and isolation intensified. Spending late nights at Newcastle’s Casino Royale and the roulette wheel provided his nightly stage’.

Sadly, Bobby died on Saturday 16th April 1988 in Preston Hospital, North Shields. Family and friends attended his funeral with a fellow comedian adding a one liner that summed up Bobby Thompson…

’He’s late because he’s found out there’s another funeral after this and he wants to go on last!’

Alikivi   May 2023

Research: Bobby Thompson, A Private Audience by Dave Nicholson.

Printed & published by TUPS books 1994.

Links to full interviews:

‘Take a Bow’ with Leah Bell 21st July 2021.

TAKE A BOW – writer, actress & theatre producer, Leah Bell | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (

‘Centre Stage’ with Pete Peverly 16th September 2019.

CENTRE STAGE in conversation with North East entertainer Pete Peverly | ALIKIVI : NORTH EAST UK (

‘The Fixer’ with David Wood 13th October 2019.