Interview - Harrogate visit for Chumbawamba member turned successful playwright
A former leading member of Chumbawamba has been talking about his entertaining new show which is coming to Harrogate’s finest church next week.
As audience members will discover when These Hills Are Ours is performed at the Grade 1 listed St Wilfrid’s Church, lead guitarist Boff Whalley may spend more time trail running and fell racing these days than singing “I get knocked down, but I get up again” but he hasn’t entirely left behind the politics of his time with the anarcho-punk Leeds band famed for their giant hit Tubthumping.
The new production, co-written by Boff with performer Daniel Bye, will combine humour and songs and, yes, running, but it also makes thought-provoking points about the importance of nature and modern politics.
Boff said: “The play is our ruminations on running, nature and politics without touching on anything non-runners would find boring.
“Running brings us into contact with the land and that opens up questions of freedom and access and who actually owns the land.
“There won’t be any boring discussions about running shoes, though that is the sort of thing I do myself!”
The arrival of the Covid pandemic came at the moment Boff and Daniel were ready to launch a nationwide tour of These Hills Are Ours, which had been commissioned by Beaford, Eden Project North, Lancaster Arts, Leeds Playhouse and Shoreditch Town Hall.
Boff said: “We had 45 dates set up when lockdown happened in 2020 which were just swept away. But we used the time to rewrite and refine the script - as well as doing some running. It’s a whole lot better show now.”
Boff reveals that even at Chumbawamba’s peak he would take off on walks in whichever city they were playing, taking random turns left or right in the style of Guy Debord and radical 1960s political and cultural thinkers Situationist International.
But he wasn't the member of Chumbawamba who infamously threw a bucket of ice cold water over Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott which made all the headlines at the 1998 Brit Awards.
But that was all a long time ago. Boff says he’s learnt a lot since becoming an acclaimed playwright, which has been put to good use in These Hills Are Ours.
Boff said: “Those were different times with Chumbawamba. The whole point of what I do now is to be entertaining.
“Putting across big ideas works better with humour than trying to hammer home some ideological point.”
For tickets to see These Hills Are Ours at St Wilfrid’s Church in Harrogate on July 13-14, visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk
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