My cultural home

COMEDIAN Bernard Manning has been all over the world – so he's well qualified when he suggests Blackpool could be a future Capital of Culture!

"Stanley Park – beautiful! The old baths – lovely! And you can get to the Isle of Man," points out Bernard, who is just back from a trip to India.

"India? What a scrapheap. You don't realise how beautiful Blackpool is until you're back from Bombay.

"I did a couple of shows to English speaking Indians. I might as well have cut my wrists. It was my first time there – and my last.

"I've done Las Vegas and Spain as working holidays but there's no place like Blackpool.

"Get the casinos open here – they would be the making of this town. The knock on effect would be marvellous with plenty of work for everyone.

"But we don't like change in England."

Given the, shall we say, somewhat sensitive nature of some of his comedy material, it's perhaps surprising to learn of his trip to India, but judge for yourself when highlights from the sub-continent are shown on Channel 4 in the near future.

Having done it for so long now, surely he must tire of the travel? Surely retirement is on the cards? "I'll do a Tommy Cooper and go out on stage," he says. "That's why I always pull a big crowd – they think it's the last time they're going to see me.

"I want to go out with a smile on my face – so it won't be at a Ben Elton concert will it?"

But has time mellowed the headline-hitting comedian?

"Mellow? I don't think so. I'm still the same old cantankerous, controversial, bigoted, cuddly very funny man," he says. "Funny is always funny – even though I've sometimes to wake up the older people in the audience and tell them what I meant. If you want to see the Archbishop of Canterbury live on stage you don't come and see me."

So if Blackpool could be up as a future Capital of Culture, what does he think about Liverpool being given the title already (well, for 2008?).

"I'll tell you what I think," he says. "Whilst we've been doing this interview 300 cars have been pinched. That's how cultural Liverpool is!"

His Merrie England shows are being promoted and hosted by Cleveleys-based comedian Jack Diamond, who started out on the Manchester circuit at the same time as Bernard.

"He's a very funny man," says Bernard. "Very smooth and non aggressive." And his weekly Merrie England spot? Is it a good room?

"Every room is a good room for me . . ."