The Press Gang's squit wagon rolls on

The Norfolk squit wagon is revving up for a 22nd successive year along the laughter trail with a tantalising sticker on the back.

The Norfolk squit wagon is revving up for a 22nd successive year along the laughter trail with a tantalising sticker on the back.

It reads “FIirst Farewell Tour!” as the Press Gang fixture list for 2005 reveals another hectic round stretching from early March into late October.

Broadcaster, writer and entertainer Keith Skipper, who has been spearheading this potent mixture of homespun humour, readings, reflections and songs since 1984, admits they do wonder how much longer the wagon can run.

“We have matured nicely together to form a mean, green machine recycling the sort of material which used to fill village meeting-places before television ruled so many lives.


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“This unashamedly old-fashioned flavour is our hallmark and any additions to the troupe over two decades have been made to enhance that reputation,” says Keith.

“Now we realise some of us are getting older as demands grow. Another hectic season beckons and there's a long waiting list for 2006. We're dubbing this year's rounds as the first farewell tour to remind ourselves as well as potential bookers that we have to take serious stock before committing to more long-term dates.”

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As well as organising Press Gang programmes and productions of All Preachers Great and Small in local churches, Keith has a full diary of personal engagements alongside regular writing and broadcasting duties.

He has two more books due out later this year and is planning a follow-up video after the success of Skippers Magic Mardlers.

“It's a busy life, with Press Gang travels at the heart of it. We have helped raise thousands of pounds for village halls, parish churches, community centres and various charities. Let's hope we have a good few miles to go.”

There are several return visits on the 2005 schedule, starting at Sedgeford on Saturday, March 5. These include provision of another hefty dollop of squit on Cromer Pier in October to raise funds for Break. Last year's show for the charity was a sell-out and modest folk-singing megastar Sid Kipper again joins Keith and his colleagues on stage at the Pavilion Theatre.

A Mardle at Norwich Maddermarket the following week breaks new ground for the Press Gang, who head for Strumpshaw Steam Museum in September to raise funds for the local church roof appeal. A date at Ludham in May will also benefit their local parish church.

Bucket collections for the EDP We Care Appeal will again be taken at most concerts with appeal chairman Paddy Seligman and her fundraising colleagues on hand to spread the word.

The Maddermarket show will spotlight this cause fully.

One sad note as the new campaign calls: “We'll miss our old friend Peter Whitbread so much after his tragic death last autumn. He provided most of the culture to go with the squit. But we'll do our best to fill the gaps in fresh ways,” pledges Keith.

PRESS GANG FIXTURES

All concerts – Saturday 7.30pm, at village halls unless stated.

t March 5 – Sedgeford, £6.50, including refreshments, 01485 579002.

t March 19 – Weeting, £6, 01842 811025.

t April 2 – Wreningham, £7, 01508 488123.

t April 9 – Belton, Burgh Hall Holiday Camp, for Belton Community Events. £7.50, including refreshments, 01493 781294.

t April 16 – Tasburgh, £6.50, including refreshments, 01508 470933.

t April 23 – Woodbastwick, for Woodbastwick and Ranworth Halls funds. £7, including refreshments, 01603 270212.

t May 7 – Denton, £6, 01986 788414.

t May 14 – Ludham, £7, including refreshments, 01692 678437.

t July 23 – Elveden, £6, 01842 890223.

t Sept 10 – Sheringham, St Andrew's Church Hall.

t Sept 17 – Worstead, Queen Elizabeth Hall.

t Sept 24 – Strumpshaw, Steam Museum, for Church Roof Appeal.

t Sunday Oct 2 – Squit on Cromer Pier, for Break. £11, 01263 512495.

t Oct 8 – Mardle at the Maddermarket, for EDP We Care Appeal.

t Oct 15 – Fleggburgh.

t Oct 22 – Wicklewood.

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