From poetry to funk and soul... Charles is the man

DECEMBER DATE Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show
DECEMBER DATE Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show
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It is difficult not to feel a little jealous of Craig Charles. He seems to have the perfect life.

As well as starring in one of the biggest comedy hits of the last 20 years, Red Dwarf, he has a role he loves on the national institution that is Coronation Street, has a book of poetry coming out, and spends the remainder of his time jetting around the world to play his favourite music to sell-out crowd.

“I suppose things are pretty good really,” says the 50-year-old, with considerable understatement.

“The weird thing is none of this should have happened, it’s all an accident. I grew up on a council estate in Liverpool that is supposed to be one of the roughest in Europe, so just to have had a career for as long as I have is great.

“I started off aged 17 on a show called Riverside on BBC2 and I’ve been on TV and radio ever since, coming up to 33 years, so I count my blessings and I’ve just clung on for the ride.”

Charles is heading to Blackpool next month to host the Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club in the Winter Gardens.

“It does exactly what it says on the tin,” he explains. “It has snowballed from the show I do on BBC 6Music, which is the network’s biggest show.

“We take it to different places – we’ve been all around the UK, boat parties on the Thames, clubs in Bristol, and to Dubai and Ibiza. It is great.

“But Blackpool was a place I really wanted to do because back in the day, when I was younger, I remember it used to have a brilliant funk and soul scene. So we thought ‘why not bring it back?’ and there is no better place than the Winter Gardens, it is a beautiful venue.”

The Brand New Heavies will play a set and Charles promises a night of “top class music with no trouble, just everyone having a ball”.

He gets his love of funk and soul from his dad. “While everyone else in Liverpool in the 60s was listening to The Beatles, we’d have Otis Redding or Nat King Cole or Aretha Franklin,” he explains.

“And it’s not a dead genre. Two of the biggest selling albums of the 21st Century have been Adele and Amy Winehouse, which are essentially soul records. So it is music that has never gone away, it is still there and relevant.”

Charles started as a poet on the same early 80s scene as Ben Elton and Harry Enfield. He appeared weekly on Terry Wogan’s BBC chat show, did Saturday Night Live, and then came a career-defining break.

“I was asked to read a script of this show called Red Dwarf because the writers wanted to know if I thought the part of the cat was racist,” he says.

“I told them it wasn’t, but that I wanted to play the part of Lister. The were two Manc guys and the thought of having a Scouser terrified them so they said no. They agreed I could audition though and I must have done OK to get the role because they were dead set against it.”

He’s less edgy cult comic hero now, more national favourite, one of Corrie’s most popular characters.

He has a book of poetry coming out soon called Scary Fairies. Which begs the question how does he fit it all in?

“With very good time management,” he replies. “It can be difficult if you’re doing a real heavy storyline on Corrie, because you can be working from seven in the morning till seven at night. But if I’ve got a gig, I have a driver and I’m really good at sleeping in cars. I just get in the back with a pillow and a duvet and I wake up at midnight when I’m on stage somewhere.”