Former MP turned railway enthusiast talks at the Grand

Michael Portillo.
Michael Portillo.

Michael Portillo, the former Conservative MP turned railway enthusiast, will add some extra sparkle to the Grand’s 2017 spring season, writes Tony Dewhurst.

The Clitheroe theatre’s reputation for spoken word events has seen Terry Waite, naturalist Bill Oddie, Falklands war veteran Simon Weston, Sale of the Century host Nicholas Parsons and Test Match Special presenter Jonathan Agnew all make guest appearances there.

Now Portillo, who comes to the Grand on March 17th, will be talking about his career in politics and his worldwide journeys by train in a new show: My Life: A Game of Two Halves.

“I’m just old enough to remember steam engines operating on the main lines,” said Portillo.

“As a boy, a couple of times a year I’d go and see my Scottish grandparents and cross the marvellous Forth Bridge.

“Those memories are evocative of my childhood, so doing these amazing train journeys is a joy.”

He added: “I’m thoroughly looking forward to my first visit to the Grand, where I’ll be talking about my life as an MP and, of course, those great railway trips.”

Before that, hear the captivating story of the Reverend David O’Brien, who as a teenager fought on the football terraces and spent most of his spare time in the pub.

David, who trained for a Theology Degree in Blackburn and now is a vicar, has written about the dramatic twists and turns in his life in a touching new book, Northern Soul: Football, Punk, Jesus.

The Reverend O’Brien will be appearing at the Grand on January 18th.

The Simon and Garfunkel Story was a huge West End hit, and now they have taken the narrative of one of the best-loved duos in pop on the road to celebrate Simon and Garfunkel’s musical legacy.

The January show features a full live band, so come and hear those classic songs – Slip Slidin’ Away, Bridge over Troubled Water and Homeward Bound - that made the New York friends famous.

Manchester DJ Mr Scruff is a firm favourite at Ribble Valley’s Beat-Herder festival, and he loves the vibe of the Grand too.

So his Scruffiness returns on March 3rd, taking hold of the controls for a monster five hour set blending jazz, soul, hip hop, funk, disco, house and reggae in the Manchester mix magicians’ melting pot.

Blazin’ Fiddles rip up the dance floor wherever they play and they return to the venue eight days after Mr Scruff has hung up his headphones.

From remote village halls to the BBC proms at the Royal Albert Hall their high octane foot-stomping sound from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is a must see live experience for any doubting Sassenachs.

Best known as the lead singer of Bellowhead, Jon Boden brings his English traditional fiddle show to the Grand when Boden’s Painted Lady Tour rolls into Clitheroe in May.

The Connie Lush Band is also pencilled in to make their Grand debut, visiting the York Street venue on February 18th.

Connie is already a huge favourite at the Colne R@B Festival and Blues legend BB King once said of her: “That ladies’ voice makes my heart sing.”

Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank have received much acclaim for their last three albums as well as landing a Mercury Prize nomination.

Their haunting folk act is set against other musical pictures, though, with influences ranging from Steve Reich to Portishead.

See The Unthanks at the Grand on May 6th.

For further details of all shows at the Grand, Clitheroe. Contact 01200 421599 or www.thegrandvenue.co.uk