EXCLUSIVE: Michael Palin talks about his next TV series ahead of his trip to ‘sublime’ Holt Festival

To different people, Michael Palin means different things.

To the die-hard Monty Python fans who sing 'I'm a Lumberjack' when he walks past in the street, he will only ever be part of the Flying Circus.

To others, he is the laid back and likeable traveller who has brought us such TV gems as Sahara, Himalaya, Around the World in 80 Days and Full Circle.

Still others will remember the under-rated but very funny Ripping Yarns, which he wrote and starred in.

Then of course, he has been a film star - A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatures, etc - and is also a novelist and a screen writer.

Oh, and he is also president of the Royal Geographical Society and set up the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children in 1993. And he has a an asteroid and a National Express East Anglia train named after him.

For the purposes of this unashamedly parochial interview, though, Palin is the son of a man who grew up in Fakenham, and who brought his family - including a young Michael - to Sheringham for childhood holidays after they had to move to Sheffield to seek employment.

Most Read

All of which shows his impeccable taste in places: a fact reinforced by his looming appearance at Holt Festival.

On July 28, Palin will be appearing at a sold-out show at the Auden Theatre, where he will be 'in conversation with' former ITN political editor Michael Brunson.

He is looking forward to the show, and likens the journey from busy London life to quiet Holt as 'going from the ridiculous to the sublime'.

He said: 'My father was born in Fakenham and I spent time in Sheringham on my holidays. It's an area I'm very fond of. Put the two together and it's a good decision.

'I'm doing it because I quite like small festivals. Some of the larger festivals have been so large that the London literary world decamps to them and they lose the personal touch.'

He said the topics of conversation were 'entirely up to Michael Brunson', but added it would be 'no holds barred', and said: 'The Q and A from the public can go either way. Generally the questions are friendly, but then you get a difficult one that floors you. But I don't mind that.'

Palin, whose parents retired to Southwold in 1966, is genuinely fond of the region. He said: 'There's a quality to both Suffolk and Norfolk. They are not overrun like chunks of London and the South-East.'

He is currently putting the finishing touches to his second novel. His first, Hemingway's Chair, was published in 1996, while this one - with a working title The Truth - is nearly ready to hit the shelves.

He said: 'It's finished for the first time. But nowadays you finish a novel several times. I'm working on a final version. It's 90pc done.

'I've always enjoyed stories and making up stories. Python was a work of the imagination and creating characters out of nothing. I've always had stories and characters coming out of my head.'

After years of working as part of TV comedy and TV and film production groups, with the social spin-offs that they bring, he admitted writing a novel was 'a bit lonely'.

He said: 'There are days when it's just you and the characters you've created and you begin to question what you are doing. But I just enjoy delving into my imagination.'

The loneliness will soon end, though, when Palin embarks on a series of trips to South America to film his latest travel documentary, Brazil, which will air on BBC1 for four one-hour programmes in autumn 2012.

A relatively unknown country despite its size and influence, Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Palin said: 'We are creating a portrait of a country that's not very well known, but which is increasingly economically important.

'It is certainly the biggest player in South America. I will be getting a feel for what people do, and going back to the traditional 'Sahara' travel show style.'

He added: 'I was very excited by Brazil when I went over for a recent visit. There's a lack of self-consciousness about Brazilians. They will talk to you about everything, and they love to have a party.'

As already mentioned, Palin's names evokes different memories for different people.

The man himself said: 'It's a really interesting mix. A lot of foreigners in London know me through the travel programmes: people from Ethiopia, Bulgaria or Somalia who want to know about me going through their country.

'Then you will get die-hard Python fan up on scaffolding who sing 'I'm a Lumberjack'.

'How I receive that depends what kind of mood I'm in. But it means Python is still alive. And it's all available now in some form or another. Back then, if you missed it on television, you missed it.

'If they remember it, be nice to them, because they might buy the box set. But certain days, if you are feeling down, you might be less than effusive.'

Whether Holt is the sort of place where people sing 'I'm a Lumberjack' at celebrities from scaffolding is open to debate.

But, as this polite and engaging man will be in one of his favourite counties, at one of the small festivals that he loves, he'll probably join in.

? For more information on Holt Festival, visit www.holtfestival.org or call the box office on 01263 711284.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter