Weavers set to ‘keep folk smiling’

The Houghton Weavers

The Houghton Weavers

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The Houghton Weavers return to Peel Centenary Centre tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday.

The band regularly performs in the island and lead singer Tony Berry explained more about their visits.

The Houghton Weavers

The Houghton Weavers

‘We originally came to the Isle of Man in the late 70s as a friend of ours from our home town, Paul Gaskell, worked for the Manx newspapers and then for the casino complex in Douglas,’ said Tony.

‘He booked us for many years in the Whispers nightclub. We then did the Villa Marina, the Gaiety Theatre, and finally the Centenary Centre in Peel.’

The band formed in 1975 and made their television debut in BBC talent show We’ll Call You. Such was the success that within months they were given their own show, Sit Thi Deawn, which ran for seven years and had the highest viewing figures for any regional TV programme.

They have worked with some of show business’s top names such as Ken Dodd, Billy Connolly, Rick Wakeman, Norman Wisdom, Cannon and Ball, Jasper Carrott and Stan Boardman.

Tony said: ‘We’ve worked with Ken Dodd on numerous stage and television shows. You need a lot of stamina when working with him - he never knows when to finish. We worked on a TV show with Billy Connolly. We were both being interviewed by Richard Madeley and we sang a song or two...Sir Norman used to come and watch our shows when we came to the island. What a beautifully funny gentleman.’

The group have released 24 albums, having a number one hit in Tasmania and a number three in New Zealand.

Talking about their career Tony said: ‘I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I sang in the school choir and played in the brass band. I began singing in social clubs until we formed the band and were fortunate enough to have a record deal within 12 months and television in three years.

‘The last 40 years have been funny. One of the band who was always late for everything once missed his flight so had to go from Manchester to Liverpool to catch a later flight. On one occasion when we were regularly on television we arrived at Manchester airport and the flight attendant recognised us and put us in the VIP lounge. She later came in and asked for some help. ‘There’s a bloke on the VIP list who I don’t know, can you help?’ she said, ‘Certainly,’ came my reply. ‘He’s called Rick Wakeman,’ she said.

‘So the attendant knew of a folk group from Westhoughton but not the superstar Manx resident who played keyboards for Yes!’

The band’s motto is Keep Folk Smiling, so what can fans expect from this weekend’s concerts?

‘We’ve been working as a group for six months short of 40 years; we have a repertoire of hundreds of songs. We prefer to let the night take us, so we don’t have a set format. Expect quite a few funny stories, lots of songs with maybe one or two Manx ones thrown in,’ said Tony.

And do they have advice for young bands starting out?

Tony said: ‘The only advice I can give is work hard and you might be lucky but certainly don’t expect to. And keep working hard - we’ve been trying for 40 years and we’ve still not got it right!’

Tickets to see the Houghton Weavers are £15 and are available online at www.etickets.im/cc or from Celtic Gold in Peel, Peter Norris Music in Douglas, Shakti Man in Ramsey and Thompson Travel in Port Erin.

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