Meet The Snots - the new comic creation of Preston's Mr Pantomime Phil Walker and artist Tim Stead
It's not just the way he tells them - it's the way he writes them too.
Lancashire comic Phil Walker, Preston’s Mr Pantomime, has added a new string to his bow - as a children’s book author.
His debut work for youngsters, a humorous tale entitled ‘The Snots’, has just been published.
The journey from idea to publication has been unexpected, for Phil, who once again wrote, directed and starred in the city’s recent Guild Hall pantomime.
The book is geared at an age group from five to 11 and Phil said:”I think kids develop a sense of humour at that time, at five or six. They understand jokes and what makes them laugh and what’s funnier than a snot or a bogey?”
Amongst the laughs there’s some learning along the way as Phil explains: “It has a bit of education in there as well. They (the Snots) end up going through the body that they live in and little Sid (Snot) is asking his parents what parts of the body they are going past.”
Inspiration came as he sat on one of his many plane journeys. He explained: “I do a lot of gigs abroad. On the plane after watching a film and reading a book you get a bit bored. I thought I’ll use this time and maybe come up with a few ideas for books. I’ve always liked children’s books - I used to love reading stories to my daughter when she was younger. I always loved children’s books and I thought it would be nice to do one.”
The story of The Snots was then filed away on his computer and there it stayed, until out of the blue he was contacted by the man who was to become the book’s illustrator, artist and truck driver Tim Stead.
Phil said: “Tim sent me an email and said he liked my comedy and would I be interested in doing a publication?”
Tim asked Phil if he had any ideas for stories which could be illustrated and Phil sent him his words about The Snots.
Phil said: “He really laughed his head off at it and said yes we’ve got to do it. Tim was on the same wavelength as me.”
The resulting 36 page picture story book is now for sale on Amazon, at Waterstones and other books shops, priced Â£6.99.
Tim lives in Silloth in Cumbria and he and Phil, whose home is in Lytham, met up regularly as the project progressed.
It has been a regional project as it has been published by publisher Vivien Ainslie of Thornton based Purple Parrot Publishing.
Phil said: “The response we’ve had from it has been really good so far. It’s little messages mainly on social media so far - they’ve said that they loved it. “
For years Phil, who also works as a voice-over artist and actor,appeared at first King George’s Hall Blackburn and then at Preston’s Charter Theatre in the annual pantomime.
At Blackburn for he appeared as either Buttons or Silly Billy. It was while developing material for the Blackburn pantomime that he realised he too could put a pantomime together.
Of the Guild Hall bookings he says: “I had a meeting with them - I knew they were looking for someone to put a panto on.”
The first year he planned to pen the script only: “Initially I went in to w rite it for them, then they asked me if I would be in it and to help them put the production together. I wrote it, directed it and I was in it!”
In the last four years he has written- first Sleeping Beauty, then Jack and The Beanstalk, Aladdin and most recently, Cinderella for the Guild Hall production.
He said: “Once we’ve got all the characters cast for the show you write around them. It’s an ongoing process. I usually start on it by March/April and it’s done by October. You spend a lot of time coming up with sketches and it’s quite a lengthy process.
“I’m always pleased when the show gets up and running and when I get rehearsals out of the way - I can just relax and be in the show.”
As for more books, he said: “I’ve got an idea for the follow up to The Snots which I’m writing at the moment. We’re planning to get that out this year. I like the writing process. I’ve got several ideas for different books. I’ve an idea for a murder mystery based around the comedy world. Sometimes things happen and it’s a nice surprise.”
But whatever happens he won’t forget his main role:”Obviously my main job is stand up comedy.”
One recent development has been a comedy club for youngsters: ”I suggested we do a comedy club for kids - basically a clean stand up comedy. They proved to be popular. We did five last year.”
The format includes comedy and games with much audience involvement. He said: “The kids loved it because kids love to laugh.”
In 2012 Phil ,who also works as a voice over artist,booked a spot at the Edinburgh Free Fringe - and relished the experience.
“It was one of those things you think it’s not for me . I was doing Jongleurs and The Comedy Store (comedy clubs) and stuff like that and it just wasn’t on my agenda. Then I went to watch some shows at the Edinburgh Festival and I thought it would be fun to do it.”
Phil runs a regular comedy club,Woofers at the Lowther Pavilion in Lytham and its next comedy night is January 17.
The man who first tried live comedy when his dad, comedian Roy Walker, encouraged him to work as a Bluecoat at Pontin’s holiday camps, and who has taken his comedy to British forces in venues ranging from The Falklands to Afghanistan, is looking forward to whatever challenge comes next ... and writing another book.