Griff Rhys Jones

Griff Rhys Jones is tak­ing his new show across his beloved Suf­folk and Nor­folk, in­clud­ing stag­ing some char­ity events for East Anglia’s Chil­dren’s Hos­pices, be­fore he be­gins a na­tion­wide tour. He speaks to Rachel Banham.

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When Griff Rhys Jones tells you he’s sort­ing his ma­te­rial for his lat­est tour and his col­leagues have warned him that he doesn’t have five hours on stage, it some­how comes as lit­tle sur­prise.

Griff is known for his TV and stage work, yet he re­calls his trav­els with such clar­ity and hu­mour that he could surely eas­ily be on stage all night and still hold an au­di­ence spell­bound.

He ap­peared in Not The Nine O’Clock News in the early 1980s and en­joyed more suc­cess with Alas Smith and Jones with the late Mel Smith. More re­cently, he has been known for his TV travel doc­u­men­taries. But Griff is also a born sto­ry­teller.

Now he has a new live show, ‘Where Was I?’, which takes as its start­ing point some of his per­sonal jaunts from the past 15 years. He has sailed a boat to St Peters­burg and around the Med. He has trav­elled in Morocco, the Gala­pa­gos, In­dia and Aus­tralia. But mostly he has ven­tured forth to work for TV, mak­ing Great­est Cities, A Slow Train to Africa, In Search of the Black Rhino, Burma and The For­got­ten Army, sev­eral se­ries of Three Men In A Boat and pro­grammes on moun­tains, rivers, lost routes and tribal art.

Griff says: “I re­alised, when I

It’s go­ing to be great go­ing around Suf­folk be­cause I ab­so­lutely adore be­ing in Suf­folk. I love it.

came to tot up all the pro­grammes I’ve made about trav­el­ling around re­cently, that I’ve done an aw­ful lot and I’ve been all over the world.

“Ba­si­cally, I’m the big­gest free travel agency that I’ve ever en­coun­tered! So, I’m telling sto­ries about peo­ple I’ve met and things I’ve done and sit­u­a­tions that I’ve been put in. But the whole show starts to be about travel – the way we all travel and what we travel for, and why we’re do­ing it and where we think we’re go­ing. And are we try­ing to es­cape?

“Also, the big dif­fer­ence, I think, which you en­counter when you’re go­ing with tele­vi­sion is the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing a tourist and be­ing a trav­eller and hav­ing an ad­ven­ture.

“Be­cause that’s ef­fec­tively what tele­vi­sion wants you to do, one way or an­other . . . have a se­ries of ad­ven­tures that they can record and tell peo­ple about things. And so they start to man­u­fac­ture ad­ven­tures for you, and there will be a lit­tle bit of be­hind the scenes chat like that.”

Griff has wan­dered from The Tor­res Straight Is­lands to Mali, from Moscow to Dar Es Salam, rid­den ‘the train of death’, jumped from a burn­ing boat in the Gala­pa­gos, sat with tribal el­ders and been or­dered off their is­land. He has un­will­ingly climbed up moun­tains and ab­seiled down wa­ter­falls, gone win­dow clean­ing on New York sky­scrapers with­out a safety rope and clam­bered through Manch­ester’s most de­mand­ing sew­ers.

De­scrib­ing Where Was I?, Griff says: “This is a try-out show, so what I do dur­ing the try-out at the venues is tell lots of dif­fer­ent sto­ries and ask ques­tions and find out what peo­ple want to do.

“In Jan­uary, I’ll do a na­tion­wide tour in big­ger places, so this is like ‘Let’s see what we’ve got, what sto­ries there are that peo­ple might

want to hear’.

“Fun­nily enough, some of the sto­ries that I’ll tell through Oc­to­ber and early Novem­ber will be sto­ries which won’t make it to the fi­nal cut. It’s a sort of work in progress tour, but it’s also good fun. We’ve got lots to talk about.”

Sail­ing in to Suf­folk

Griff was in­spired to buy a home near Holbrook, south of Ip­swich, some 30 years ago, fol­low­ing happy mem­o­ries of his fa­ther sail­ing in the area in the 1960s.

The bound­ary be­tween Holbrook and Stut­ton runs through the mid­dle of his house.

“I can wake up in Holbrook and then go and brush my teeth in Stut­ton. De­pend­ing on my mood I can be in either vil­lage,” he says.

“I live up here as much as I can. We’re here a lot re­ally. It’s go­ing to be great go­ing around Suf­folk be­cause I ab­so­lutely adore be­ing in Suf­folk. I love it.

“I’m al­ways off ex­plor­ing - if I get time, that’s the trou­ble. So this is a good ex­cuse to be able to ex­plore. In fact, I keep urg­ing my pro­moter, I keep say­ing: ‘Find more places, more dates . . . I don’t mind how tiny it is!’”

Nor­folk is in­cluded in his cur­rent tour with a date at Diss, and more dates in the county are set to be added for Griff’s na­tion­wide tour.

His tour last year in­cluded a date at The Play­house in Nor­wich and he also com­pered a show for for­mer Nor­wich The­atre Royal chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Wilson.

To­day, Griff re­mains busy. Ear­lier this year he ap­peared in The Miser on stage and filmed Mur­der On The Black­pool Ex­press for TV.

“The truth is, as long as peo­ple ask me to do things and as long as I can work I’m ex­tremely happy,” he says.

Now, through his travel sto­ries, that cheer­ful­ness, hu­mour and seem­ingly bound­less en­ergy look set to hold au­di­ences across the re­gion spell­bound too.

An­other rea­son Griff loves liv­ing in East Anglia - en­joy­ing the Oys­ter Feast in Colch­ester Town Hall.

Griff Rhys Jones pic­tured at the re- open­ing of Flat­ford Lock.

Griff at River Waveney Study Cen­tre at Ear­sham, near Bun­gay, where he ar­rived by ca­noe be­fore of­fi­cially open­ing the new home of the River Waveney Trust.

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