ARCHIVE: Hovis Has Risen and Left The Building

Andrew wrote this article in 2005. ‘I always found it hard to interview Hovis,’ says Andrew, ‘He would ask to see copy before it was submitted to the editor. I was new to journalism back then and stupidly, I always said yes. Hovis would inevitably return my copy with revisions galore. Mainly, he would tighten up jokes, move around sentences and make suggestions. When I was in my early twenties, cutting my teeth, I hated that. Now, I am much older, and I miss those notes from Hovis, I miss those suggestions’.

Hovis Has Risen and Left The Building. Article by Andrew Oldham

The first time I met Hovis Presley I was signing on and being forced to go through a soul destroying programme of back to work sessions, learn how to type, learn how to do your accounts, learn how to do just what we say. They were the kind of sessions run by middle-aged men who wore Burton suits, drove away in a saloon car as you stood at the bus stop in the rain and who had no problem in informing you that ‘they knew your pain, your lack of confidence’, and how they thought about this every time they took to the beach or the ski slopes. I remember telling Hovis this in a Bolton pub (it was raining outside and I could see his bicycle tethered outside to a railing), he replied that everyone has to do something with their life, he personally preferred a bicycle. He then asked me what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a writer and he was happy to give me some advice – ‘just write and don’t buy into believing your better than everyone else’. I’m paraphrasing, but it was a truth about Hovis, no matter how big he got, no matter how many times he appeared on stage, radio and television (he had a few plans for documentaries involving his Irish heritage, he mentioned a boat once and the coast of Ireland in one of our later interviews), he never gave up that bloody push bike or forgot who he was and what he wanted. To me he wasn’t just a comedian, or a performance poet, he was a giant of a man full of warmth and understated charm, the master of the pun, the flat delivery and the drole.

I kept bumping into Hovis over the following decade, both in my role as a journalist and as a writer. He was always laconic about why he took to the stage and why he wrote; “If I weren’t doing this I’d be looking for chewing gum under shop window ledges”. He cited his interests back then as postal ker-plunk and choosing eight sandwiches to take to a desert island (seven cheese and one egg). I interview Hovis for many people, The Big Issue in the North, Flux, BBC GMR, Manchester Evening News, Bolton Evening News and always enjoyed meeting up with him and talking with him about his work (he would always bring a friend that he felt I should interview as well, via Hovis I met many comedians, Pete Kay, Justin Moorhouse and Smug Roberts).

Years later, Peter Kay would offer Hovis a role in Phoenix Nights but he turned it down (he feared that this role would typecast him). He never bought into his celebrity, he influenced comedians across the country but he would only ever take gigs where he could get back to Bolton before the trains stopped. “The only place in the country where broken biscuits are still legal tender,” he once quipped. However, he was man of integrity and would often do charity gigs wherever and whenever he could, regardless of distance.

That first time I interviewed him was my favourite meeting, he gave me a hand made copy of Poetic Off-License, made in his kitchen. A friend had done the art, someone else had typed it up and Hovis had stapled them together (I still have it now on my shelf along with other copies that surfaced over the next three years, the re-editions and the holiday annual – before I moved from Bolton, he would phone me up and ask me to gigs or would say that he had a new book for me). He was generous and I will miss his presence in this world.

Hovis died on the 9th June 2005.

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