Graham – Fantastic, thanks! Your close connections with these papers are working a treat for us.

Philip Lovett, Nottingham City and County Enterprise and Skills Board, August 2012


After Dinner speaking

Thank you so much for your fascinating and funny talk... "Best talk ever”, members were saying as they left. Well done! It was great to see so many members asking you questions. There were 134 members in the audience, which is a really good attendance.

All good wishes.
Kay Williams Bourne U3A


Copywriting and Journalism

Superb piece, thanks so much Graham, have sent copy on to head of Military History Channel who I’m sure will be thrilled. We’ve got a few more coming up this year so hopefully we’ll be able to do more together very soon.

All the best


Steve Humphries, MD Testimony Films, Bristol

THANK-YOU – it looks fantastic!

Vicki-Sue Brotherhood, proprietor of Indian Summer, re the feature about her life and business on


Articles - Amanda Holden

She looks fit, trim and happy and why not?


In her new role as Ringmistress Lizzie in BBC1’s circus sitcom Big Top, Amanda Holden is an arresting sight.

She wears a vivid scarlet ringmaster’s jacket, top hat, black satin hotpants as skimpy as they are clinging, and black tights matched with black leather knee boots sporting killer stiletto heels.

The glamorous look is topped off by a curly blonde wig and enough eye make-up and lippy to make Amy Winehouse seem a model of restraint.



It’s no wonder that the first episode sees her character hooking a male admirer (guest star Patrick Baladi). Ringmistress Lizzie will attract a lot more of those before the six-part series is done.

“Oh and in one episode I do have a whip,” grins Amanda, who comes up with almost as many mischievous one-liners as scriptwriter Daniel Peak.


She thinks the timing is perfect for a colourful sitcom set in a circus: “It’s credit crunch comedy – you can quote me on that. It’s such an obvious idea it’s amazing that it’s never been done before, because most comedies at the moment seem to be set in someone’s lounge or house with a washing machine, a pet and two children.

“But in the climate we’re in it’s just great that, before we even open our mouths, we’ve got something fantastic to look at, because there’s a huge circus tent, there are clowns, there are people dressed up, there’s colour and eccentricity.


“You’re not just watching a family despairing of their life, like people probably are in their own lounges. And then when we start speaking it’s really well-written – by someone I’ve never heard of!”


Series creator Daniel Peak in fact won a BBC New Talent sitcom-writers’ award in 2002 and has since co-written comedy hit Not Going Out, with Lee Mack. He also wrote BBC3 sitcom I’m With Stupid, the format of which has now been sold to America.


But there are other comic talents involved too. Hi De Hi star Ruth Madoc plays veteran performer Georgie, the Grande Dame of Circus Maestro, who performs with her impassive Scottie dog, David; Tony ‘Baldrick’ Robinson revives his comedy career as dodgy sound engineer Erasmus; and Corrie star John Thomson, who made his name in The Fast Show and comedy-drama Cold Feet, pairs up with near-namesake Sophie Thompson as rubbish clowns Plinky and Plonky.


“Each member of the cast brings their own audience. I mean there are recognizable faces in it, which you kind of have to have,” says Amanda. “It’s bums-on-seats comedy, it’s family entertainment, and it would be great if if comes on after EastEnders or something like that.”


In fact the only regular who isn’t yet a household name is Bruce Mackinnon as Eastern European acrobat Boyco, who has an unrequited passion for Ringmistress Lizzie and whose turquoise Lycra body suit is as unfortunate as Amanda’s costume is sexy.


At least this gives her ample opportunities to tease him: “His outfit’s not fashionable at all. Most men wouldn’t be seen dead in it. He’s very brave,” laughs Amanda.


“I think he went and worked out a bit because he had to wear this all-in-one Lycra catsuit, and when he put it on again they’d built the muscles into it. We didn’t know, so we went ‘Oooh Bruce! You’re fit!’ But they’re foam…”

On the day we meet up in a cavernous London rehearsal hall, Amanda, 38, is not wearing Lizzie’s scarlet and black outfit but a chic grey cardigan dress over a low-cut black cotton top, blue tights and sandy-coloured Ugg boots.


Lizzie’s curly blonde wig has also given way to long, perfectly straight blonde hair with a Sixties-style fringe. She looks gorgeous and immaculate, as ever, with pale pink lipstick and a flawless complexion.

In fact, curiously, Amanda actually looks younger than the last time I interviewed her – five years ago when she appeared in (Miss) Marple. It’s partly the youthful hairstyle, but all that Botox she has admitted to sampling clearly works.


She looks fit, trim and happy and why not? Career-wise she is an integral part of Britain’s Got Talent, along with X Factor probably the biggest hit on the box, with offers coming in from America, plus this unique new sitcom.

And on the domestic front she is happily married to record producer Chris Hughes, 35, and delights in being mum to daughter Lexie, who turns four in January, though Amanda does admit that filming Big Top means her time with Lexie has been rationed for a while:


“Oh bless her… Yeah, I’ve missed her, but it’s just six weeks of six days a week, so I know there’s an end to it. It’s fine, and then I get to be mummy again, and it gives me the advantage of not working again for the rest of the year if I don’t want to.


“And he’s brilliant with her. She came down yesterday and watched the end part, because he took her to see Sponge Bob at the Hammersmith Apollo, and she comes into the studio on Saturday, because she likes that.

“She’s really good . She’s quiet. When they say ‘Action’ she goes ‘Shhh!’ and she’s only three!

“She loves my outfit, and one week I was dressed as a clown and she likes that. We’ve got a picture up on our notice board in our kitchen of me as a clown – I look like a cross between Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy and Su Pollard…


“I actually sent a picture of me dressed as a clown to Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell” (her fellow-judges, of course, on BGT) “and Simon just said ‘You were born to do this.’ Piers said ‘I nearly spat my wine out! I was laughing so much.’”


Ironically, Amanda herself is vehemently against circuses using exotic animals and never even liked the circus as a child:


“”No, and I wasn’t keen on clowns. I just don’t find clowns funny. Slapstick, slipping on banana skins – I just go ‘Hmm. It’s not funny.’


“I went to one circus when I was growing up, when we were on holiday in France. I remember it because I drank too much of that Orangina. I drank so much of it I was badly ill. I’ve never been able to touch it since.”




After Dinner Speaker

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Showbiz journalist Graham Keal developed his flair for entertaining audiences early, compering student revues, appearing at folk clubs and auditioning for Opportunity Knocks. He is now an experienced speaker performing at dinners, conferences and club events all over the UK.

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And there's more . . . . . . .

Interesting observations, stories and celebrity encounters

Basically a Blog by any other name – short articles and observations on assorted topics including Off Your Trolley (notes from an inveterate foodie and value-hungry shopper), observations on celebrity encounters and funny stuff culled from Graham Keal’s Netwits – collected humour from all over the internet.


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Graham’s lengthening list of celebrity interviewees includes too many to list here – but Ricky Gervais, Hugh Dennis, Liz Hurley, David ‘Shameless’ Threlfall, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters, James Stewart, Omar Sharif and David Attenborough are among them. And Oprah Winfrey, of course.


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