Radar back on stage after 40 years

Wigan cabaret band Radar back in the 1970s

Wigan cabaret band Radar back in the 1970s

A Wigan band will provide a blast from the past when they play their first gig in almost 40 years for a leading local charity.

Five-piece Radar, who supported a host of top cabaret stars at clubs in the borough and across northern England in the 1970s, will take to the stage at a sold-out Highfield Cricket Club on Saturday November 26.

Rehearsals were a bit strange but it has been great fun re-learning old songs and the banter has been as sharp as ever

Gary Speakman

The band, made up of guitarist Gary Speakman and Paul Roberts, keyboardist Stephen Chadwick, bassist Steve Rigby and drummer Gary Ashurst, are preparing a set of classic songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s for the gig in aid of Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH).

The group admits it was slightly strange returning to the rehearsal room for the first time in four decades but the performers are now looking forward to winding the clock back and getting on stage together once more.

Guitarist Gary, from Standish, said: “It’s just a good opportunity to do something before we all get too old and everyone’s still around.

“Demand has been really good, that’s the most pleasing thing. We had worried we would say we were doing it and no-one would be interested but we’re going to be playing to a sold-out room of 160-odd people.

“Rehearsals were a bit strange but it has been great fun re-learning old songs and the banter has been as sharp as ever. We mostly had to rehearse as a four-piece as our keyboardist Stephen now lives near London, but he’s a musician and does session work so it’s easy for him to slot in,

“Steve hadn’t picked up his guitar in 40 years so that was quite a challenge for him, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we’re playing amongst friends.

“We’re only playing material from the sets we played around the clubs back then, which has tested our memory banks given we are all now in our mid-50s. We’ve still got some of our outfits from those days and we might hang them around the venue but we won’t be squeezing into them, that’s for sure.”

Radar formed when Gary, Steve and Paul, who were all brought up in the Worsley Mesnes area, got together and after going through a few line-up changes settled into life as a five-piece.

The group formed when the members were all teenagers and split when the musicians found their way into work or university study.

The band played with cabaret stars Faith Brown, Emile Ford, Stan Boardman and most notably Phil Cool, who got his own TV show as a comedian soon after they performed together one memorable winter.

Gary said: “At the time he was a bit of a folk singer and he supported us on New Year’s Eve in York. We were quite young so it was a way for us to go and it was snowy both there and back.

“It was quite an eventful night. We saw him trudging off to his house in Chorley at about 8am on New Year’s Day and the next time we saw him he had his own TV programme.

“It’s quite a strong memory because he was our support act, but he made it and we didn’t.

“As a band you get to the point where you either stick or twist, and we didn’t stick. We were OK with it though, I don’t think we were destined for superstardom.”

Radar has chosen the Hindley-based hospice to be the beneficiary of the comeback gig as several of the members have personal connections to the charity’s work.

Gary also says the band is not looking any further ahead and has no plans to play any more concerts.

Radar will play at Highfield Cricket Club on Saturday November 26 in aid of Wigan and Leigh Hospice. The gig is already sold out.