On election day, Northern Soul had a very unusual To Do list. Firstly, vote, obviously. Then do a bit of a shop. Then interview Basil Brush.
Now, mention Basil to almost anyone and chances are they’ll beam from ear to ear, and most likely bellow “Boom! Boom!” while they’re at it. Basil is still going strong, currently winning legions of young fans via his Full on Fox UK tour, which arrives at The Lowry in Salford this week. It’s for this reason that Basil is speaking to Northern Soul (over the phone, if you’re wondering).
As Basil says: “I sort of think of my tour as a pilgrimage of laughter, with myself and Mr Stephen who I did my CBBC series with from 2002 to 2008. What we’re doing is, we’ve got back together and we’ve got this ginormous video screen behind us, which allows us to perhaps go into space – not wanting to give too much away. Or perhaps go back in time – not wanting to give too much away. Also, the boys and girls get a chance to get up on the stage, cream pie some people in the faces and win prizes.”
Not to be impolite, but he’s just a small fox. So, video screen aside, how does he go about filling such a big stage? “Well, I fill my stage with my huge personality, is the way I like to think of it,” Basil says. “But actually, I performed a couple of years ago at the Albert Hall and you’d have thought, ‘Cor blimey, they wouldn’t be able to see you’. But funnily enough, that’s what me brush is for. They can see very clearly where I am.”
Basil promises Full On Fox audiences “lots of laughs, some of them in the right places, plus music, singing and dancing – a family show”. Then, after the performance, the audience gets the opportunity to meet Basil and Mr Stephen in the foyer. As Basil explains, it’s a chance to “to shake a paw, shake a brush, and also get autographs signed and take photographs with me for all that social media stuff”.
Basil is all about keeping up with technology these days: as well as embracing the selfie, he’s now on Twitter, Facebook, and has his own brand-new YouTube channel.
“When they said to me, ‘Basil, you’re going to be launched on a digital platform’, I thought perhaps I was going to be blasted to Mars on a one-way ticket. And I know some people would perhaps like me to be on that trip. But no, I’ve started making sketches that are on YouTube, on my official Basil Brush channel. Mr Stephen and myself have just made 32 of them, so although we’re not on CBBC anymore, all of our episodes and all the other bits and bobs, you can now get via YouTube or by visiting my website.”
It’s great that Basil’s evolving and still going strong. For many, he can be spoken of in the same breath as family favourites like Sooty, the Muppets and the Flowerpot Men, although he won’t accept this.
“Ah yes, you say that, but they are puppets. I’m actually a real live talking fox, living and breathing. So we are completely different, you see. Don’t get us confused!” He doesn’t cross paths with them socially, then? “Oh, no no no. We don’t frequent the same bars on a Saturday night, no. And Sooty doesn’t have a great deal to say for himself, anyway.”
Though he’s been in the public eye since 1962, Basil insists that he’s still feeling sprightly and isn’t ready to hang up his brush just yet.
“Oh no, I’ve had no thoughts of retiring. Those who think I’ve had a facelift are talking out of their botox! Ha ha ha! Boom! Boom! No, the thing is, for longevity, basically you need to grow lots of fur on your face. It hides all the cracks. Also, if you put cucumber over your eyes, smear yourself in tuna fish and put a bit of lettuce on your head, it doesn’t do any good, but it reminds you of your salad days. Boom! Boom! I’ve got my own teeth – in a little jar by the bed. And I am the only natural orange colour out of myself, David Dickinson and Anne Robinson.”
With this in mind, it’s possible that there are new horizons left for Basil to explore. As a well-loved family entertainer, has he ever considered going on Strictly Come Dancing?
“Well, after a hot vindaloo, I do a mean foxtrot. Boom! Boom! So no, I wouldn’t mind going on there and shaking a little paw, shaking a tail feather or two. I think I’d be rather good as a judge, actually.” As a contestant, of course, they’d need to be careful exactly who they paired him with. “Yes, it’d have to be somebody very short. Dani Harmer would be great, or Kylie Minogue. We’re all the same height.”
Or failing that, perhaps he’d fancy a turn on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here? Surely his foraging abilities would come in handy there? “Well, yes, I would have an unfair advantage of course, being a fox. But I’m an urbane fox, as opposed to an urban fox, so I would struggle eating all of those grubs, you see. Some people like to get back to the countryside, but I’d rather get back to the hotel – and a nice posh one, if you don’t mind.”
Basil isn’t sure about making a move into politics, either. “Funnily enough, I remember once being invited by Gordon Brown to do some entertaining at one of his children’s parties at 10 Downing Street. As I was going through, I said, ‘I could go Boom! Boom! any second now’ – and that instant all these alarms went off and I was surrounded by high security. But I went in there and I gave Gordon a bit of advice. I said, ‘Balloons are up, feathers are down and nappies remain unchanged’. Oh yes, I know about the stock market. I did invest in the Royal Bank of Origami, but sadly that folded. And then I invested in the Royal Bank of Karaoke…but it was sold for a song.”
Foxes, it seems, don’t get a vote anyway, and Basil doesn’t much like the sound of groups such as the Countryside Alliance.
“Well, I’ve been chased by redcoats many times, but that’s because I didn’t pay me bill at Butlins. Ha ha ha! Boom! Boom! You set ’em up and I’ll knock ’em down…”
By Andy Murray
With very special thanks to Michael Winsor
To read Northern Soul’s interview with Sooty, click here
Basil Brush’s Full on Fox is currently on tour and comes to Salford’s Lowry Theatre on May 24, 2015 at 11am and 2.30pm
Official Basil Brush Website: www.basilbrush.com/
Official Basil Brush YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UC_BbidFt63amCoRKrb-rHog
Follow Basil: on Twitter (@realbasilbrush) or Facebook (as Real Basil Brush)