This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Unless you’re from a planet forty million parsecs from our furthest star yet discovered, you’ll have heard of Peter Kay. A Lancashire comedian from Bolton, I’m not going to list his rise to fame here in the UK as if you’re not aware you can quickly find out.
On 13 December 2017, Kay announced he was cancelling all future work projects “for family reasons” and one of the most funniest and most popular stand up British comics just disappeared.
For a while there was nothing. Very occasionally he would put his head over the parapet to support someone else in an endeavour or to do a rare radio interview. But there was no more “Phoenix Nights”, “Max & Paddy” or “Car Share” and as for stepping the boards, he just said no.
The UK media were desperate to find out why he’d just stopped a meteoric career. At the same time they knew probing to discover why he’d stopped would open a floodgate of approbation. So remarkably they left him alone.
Let’s fast forward to now. Peter hears about a Lancashire girl called Laura who has a brain tumour. He rang her family and just said “How can I help?”
Laura Nuttall was 19 when she achieved straight A’s in her A levels and was just weeks into an international relations degree at King’s College University in London when she began to experience headaches and nausea.
She put her symptoms down to ‘fresher’s flu’, but a routine eye test led to her being diagnosed with glioblastoma – the most aggressive brain cancer you can get.
Think that’s rare? Ten children and teenagers are diagnosed with a brain tumour every week in the UK.
So her mother Nicola did what any mother would do and put it out there. She’d once worked for Granada and used her contacts. She found Peter Kay.
Peter decided to come out of retirement for Laura and do what he did best, which is to make folk laugh. God knows we need that. But how would this funny-man do this? I decided I wanted to be there to see.
Ticketmaster were ready as they’d been there before. At 9am on Saturday 7th August the internet floodgates opened. In 30 minutes all 7000 seats for one man’s performance were sold.
I got one.
In Manchester it rains all the time. When it’s not raining it looks like it’s going to, then it does. Consequently the roads and motorways are a car park littered with jams and accidents every single day. I’m not exaggerating. I hate the place.
The rain and spray that day was enormous and the misting up of my windows so ridiculous I couldn’t see to drive on these roads I didn’t know. I’m a very experienced driver – but that was nothing I want to go through again,
On arriving at the venue I found the queues into it the most I have ever seen for any act. I stood in the car park of a builder’s warehouse for an hour and a half without moving.
I’m on a stick and felt faint but had to see this phenomenon as did everyone else as the queue behind me stretched way out of sight.
The security had several checkpoints. The first was your NHS Covid letter proving both jabs. The card you might have had when you got the jabs at the surgery was not enough.
Everyone was relying on smart-phone records except me who had it on paper (old school as ever).
There was the security of your bags, the removal of your umbrellas and then the scan of the ticket on your phone. They did not take my stick from me thankfully.
Once inside the venue it was pretty much fend for yourself. Eventually I found a lady to help me find my seat.
No-one was wearing masks except the staff. 3,500 people crammed into a major venue after a pandemic which has decimated millions. I wore mine throughout despite having had this virus and being double jabbed. I know what covid feels like and I didn’t want it again.
At the same time there has been too much focus on C19 and the problems it’s caused which has diverted us from everyday illnesses we can no longer get NHS treatment for. I digress.
Peter was doing two shows. A matinee and an evening show which took the form of a Q&A mixed with his trademark stand-up.
He’d asked for questions to be sent to him prior to the gig. No-one was allowed to record it. I suspect it’ll have been filmed and hopefully the release will make more money to save Laura. I hope so.
At one point he asked a lady to come up from the audience who told him her mother was too ill to come. He asked her to ring and spoke to her on stage. She didn’t believe it was him until he she heard the roar from the crowd.
The drive back across the Pennines was equally arduous. Manchester is such a maze – but then so are most cities. To help me, Man United were at home to Everton that day and consequently the M62 was at a standstill. It was the stuff of nightmares. But in those queues we were still smiling.
Kay’s humour is sometimes rude and un-PC – but his audience love that. They are seriously fed up with “woke” nonsense and will queue in the rain for hours for the chance to see the guy who still sets the bar of modern British comedy four years after he stepped down from performing.
If anyone could cheer up a nation it’s this man. He came back out of retirement and raised the roof of the Manchester Apollo twice in one day – without taking a penny for it.
Good luck Laura. I hope the money helps you to get the treatment you need – and well done Peter. Don’t leave it another four years to make us smile again.
It seems there was no recording of either of the two Doing It For Laura shows. However Peter has announced a 2022 tour called ‘Peter Kay’s Dance for Life’, which will take place in spring and summer next year.
- Friday 15 April – Manchester Central
- Saturday 16 April – Manchester Central
- Friday 29 April – Alexandra Palace, London
- Friday 19 August – M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
- Saturday 20 August – M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Doing it for Laura Facebook page here