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Sadly, Barry Cryer passed away last year. If you are young, you may not know who he was although you may recognise him from TV shows like ‘Would I Lie to You.’

He was better known for his writing than for being a comedian and believe me he had written for all the greats of his time. I could start an impressive list of the most successful comedians of the last 50 years and although many of you may not recognise their names, they were massively famous at the time, and he wrote their material. He wrote a lot for television and was well known by everyone.

I met him by chance when (as a musician) I played on the National Lottery show way back in 1995. The BBC back then was very much a clique and there was a Green Room get-together after every filming. Why we were invited is beyond me, but we were treated by everyone as if we were part of the crowd. I remember talking to Eamonn Holmes, who talked mostly about music, and I thought he was a delightful man, polite and interested in other people. Barry Cryer was sitting (never ‘sat’ please!) on a settee drinking wine. Then he called me over.

‘Who wrote that daft song then? He asked.

‘Well, it was sort of, a collaborative effort.’ I laughed.

We had been asked to write a song for Mystic Meg, a famous resident clairvoyant who predicted lottery wins. Of course, it was all hoo-hah, but we were also asked to perform it on the show.

As my conversation with Barry developed, I told him I had plans (along with the guitarist) to write scripts for performers on the cabaret circuit. Many years earlier, everyone, no matter what they did, had to have an ‘Act.’ I suppose that’s like what we call a USP for businesses today. That determined how you differed from others and how you would be recognised. And often an Act needed a script writer if there was some comedy or relatable banter involved. My idea was that I would write particularly for bands (who could be quite dull) to help them relate to audiences who needed to be entertained.

Before I knew it, I was asking for Barry’s advice. What I have written below is not verbatim, but it is very close to what was said.

‘If you want to write and you can write, especially if it’s something funny, you must do it. You’ve no idea how it can change people’s lives, just having a laugh about something. People desperately need to be entertained to get them away from the humdrum of everyday life. Go for it,’ he said.

So that’s what we did. Kevin and I started doing the script thing, and that turned into writing musicals for schools and theatre groups and eventually all the major tour operators were our clients.

Years later, when I considered writing a book, I stalled again because I didn’t believe that I should do it. If I could have read some of the reviews, I was going to get in advance. I probably wouldn’t have! But then up pops Barry on TV and I remembered what we had talked about.

This isn’t just a simple homily about whether to write, it’s about the beauty of encouragement. He could have said the opposite, and if he had, I might have stopped there. That is how important encouragement is. This is what we hope to do at ASPA and it’s what we hope you will all do. Please avoid any unnecessary criticism if you’re in the forum or anywhere else in the community.

It is incredible what a kind word can do.

So now you’re probably saying, “what happens if you encourage somebody who does not have the skill to do something?” My answer would be that they will find out eventually. They will know it’s not for them.

Writing is incredibly isolating and there are so many talented people who may crumble without support. Here, we are all on the same team, so let’s encourage one another.


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