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What's On, Culture, Literature

Rob Beckett

An Exclusive Extract From His New Book: A Class Act


Before we kick off this journey of self-discovery, I think it’s only fair that I quickly prove my working-class creden-tials. I know what you are thinking: Is he the real deal or is he secretly a middle-class bloke pretending to be working class in order to have a career in comedy? No, of course not. That’s Lee Nelson’s schtick.

So who am I? I grew up in South East London and my dad was a van driver, then an oil-tanker driver and he finished off his career as a London black-cab driver. How blue do you want my old man’s collar? My mum stayed at home to look after the kids, and when we were older got part-time work in a shop and then worked at a college in the library. I started work at 14 on Columbia Road flower market and did a series of low-paid jobs before I became a comedian. These included bar man, waiter, office temp, cricket stew- ard, shelf stacker and car-boot sale entrepreneur.

I gave up on boot sales when I watched my mum sell a bag full of my Microstars football figures for about three quid. I have never forgiven her and occasionally, if I’m feeling a bit too happy, I will search for my old figures on eBay to see how much they are worth now to bring my mood down.

For my sixteenth birthday I had my party at Crayford dog-racing track, where I openly bet. There were a number of tables next to a window looking out over the track, where we ate and drank and bet on the dog racing. Imagine Ladies’ Day at Ascot done on a really low budget with no dress code. All my family were there: aunties, uncles and cousins. It wasn’t done in an ironic hipster way – we all loved it. Only looking back now does it seem an odd place to go for a sixteenth birthday party.

My family aren’t massive gamblers but will have the occasional bet on the football on a Saturday. When I was young we would all get an accumulator and watch the goals go in with Jeff Stelling on Sky Sports. That’s how we would spend our weekends. My wife had no idea what an accumulator was. The first time she ever went to a bookies was when we went to visit my parents on a Saturday. Around lunchtime we, as a family, all set off to place our bets. It was remarkable watching someone expe- rience a bookies for the first time. She was so confused by everything – the clientele, the betting procedure, the odds system – which is totally understandable. I have been placing bets for years but I still get a bit scared and over- whelmed when I hear someone put £100 on a computer horse race at 7/2. Other things that I have introduced to my wife include pie mash, fried chicken and pegging. Not all class related, but still educational.


nik kershaw
Fri 31 May 2024

Nik Kershaw’s debut album Human Racing came out in 1984 and saw him dominating the singles chart with tracks including Wouldn’t It Be Good, I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and Dancing Girls. Swiftly followed by The Riddle, Nik spent 62 weeks in the charts and was one of the musicians to play Live Aid in July 1985.

Nell Mescal pwj9ug
Fri 31 May 2024

For the uninitiated, Nell Mescal (yes, sister of actor Paul) is an Irish singer-songwriter who hit the festival circuit hard last summer, playing (amongst others) The Great Escape, BST Hyde Park, Boardmasters and Live at Leeds. This year, she’s headed to Oxfordshire and Alex James’ Big Feastival for August bank holiday weekend. Eloise Lonsdale caught up with her to find out more about her musical style and her recently launched EP, Can I Miss it For a Minute.

Sea Girls Credit Blacksocks qoafap
Fri 31 May 2024

2024’s Truck line-up looks to be one of its best yet, balancing big names with emerging artists and beloved regulars. As an event, it has come to mark start of the summer holidays for its devoted attendees, but how about the acts? We caught up with Oli Khan, drummer in indie-rock band Sea Girls to get the bands-eye view.

Corinne Bailey Rae
Wed 1 May 2024

Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On snap-shotted the summer of 2006. Her most recent release, Black Rainbows came out 2023 and it is obvious to hear how much she is relishing the full range of her unique voice and, as I was to discover when we spoke, her extraordinarily lyrical vocabulary.