Why Jim Davidson loves returning to Great Yarmouth

Jim Davidson

Jim Davidson will be performing at the Britannia Pier for two shows this summer. - Credit: Archant

"I love coming to Great Yarmouth - it's one of the only places I can perform and not offend anyone."

That's what comedian Jim Davidson says as he prepares for his upcoming shows at the town's Britannia Pier

For two nights over the summer, Mr Davidson's shows promise to have audiences "laughing like we used to".

The comedian, who shot to fame in the late 1970s and hosted several primetime BBC programmes including The Generation Game and Big Break, said returning to Great Yarmouth is always nostalgic.

Jim Davison

Comedian Jim Davidson said he loves to perform in Great Yarmouth as it is one of the only places he can perform and not offend anyone. - Credit: Archant

"I've always had a great time in Yarmouth," he said.

"When I drive down the Acle Straight, I look out and see the Stracey Arms, and I can see where we used to park our boat when I was a kid.

"It's fabulous."

Years later, Mr Davidson had his first show in the town, performing at the former ABC Theatre in the late 1970s.

Jim Davidson

Jim Davidson first performed in Great Yarmouth at the ABC Theatre in the late 1970s. - Credit: Archant

"There's always been a great atmosphere and it always seems to be sunny," he said.

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"And I love performing at the Brit. It's a big summer-season barn. There's no room for Shakespeare or Dickens in that building. 

"It's just good old end-of-the-pier seaside laughs. Laughs like you used to get.

"It really is what I long to do, to go back to when everyone was laughing at everything. No one was offended and no one set out to offend. 
"Now, all you've got to say is "hello" and someone will be offended by it."

But causing offence has been a big part of the comedian's career. Mr Davidson recalled a time when he first performed one of his adult-only shows in the town.

He said the mayor protested the show, saying "we don't want this Jim Davidson filth in our town".

"And because of that, the show sold out," Mr Davidson said. "I sent a huge cheque for the mayor's fund afterwards. I said, 'thanks, you've sold my show out by telling people not to go'."

Between 1996 and 2002, Mr Davidson was the leaseholder of the Wellington Pier in the town.

"I ploughed a fortune into it and tried to make that work," he said.

"But to get that seafront organised, you need money and you need someone who knows what they're doing."

Jim Davidson

FLASHBACK: A pensive Jim Davidson outside the Wellington Pier in 1998. - Credit: Archant

Mr Davidson praised the continuous efforts of town entrepreneurs the Jays, the Joneses and the Treadwells, calling them "fantastic people".

"They need to have a say on how the entertainment is run in Great Yarmouth because they know what they're doing," Mr Davidson said.

"The racecourse is good, the Norfolk Broads are just a dream and Yarmouth, when I'm there, I always have a fabulous time. I always end up drinking too much.

"It's only a shame it's not like the old days when you do a summer season for 12 weeks. I wish I could do more there.

"It really is a quaint place and I think the town caters for people who don't want extravagance. What you see is what you get."

Jim Davidson

Comedian Jim Davidson was the host of the BBC primetime shows The Generation Game and Big Break. - Credit: Archant

Mr Davidson said the town needs to focus on live entertainment to make it thrive.

"You need to keep the clubs open, keep more music venues, have more fun stuff going on. Make it bigger, brighter, better. 

"All these seaside towns should all be like little Las Vegases. I think the days are gone where the most you can win on a slot machine is £4.

"People want to come and enjoy themselves and spend their money. Rejuvenate the town that way. It's a seaside town. It's not anything else."

The comedian is also well known for his relationship with Caister Lifeboat, becoming a patron in 1986.

"I've been supporting the lifeboat for about 30 years," he said. "They're a terrific bunch."

Jim Davidson

FLASHBACK: Jim Davidson (right) and Bernard Matthews (left) with coxswain Dick Thurlow (centre left) and secretary Jackie Dixon help launch a Caister Lifeboat Appeal at Yarmouth Town Hall in 2003. - Credit: Archant

Mr Davidson said he has been collecting for the lifeboat station's new vessel and he wants to help get it named after the late wife of the former coxswain Dick Thurlow.

"I just hope people can get in touch with Caister Lifeboat and make a donation," he said.

"And for those coming to see my show, I look forward to seeing everybody."

Jim Davidson will be performing at the Britannia Pier on Friday, July 29 and August 26.