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Paul Hollywood brings his stage show to Newcastle City Hall

As The Great British Bake Off reaches its grand finale, Paul Hollywood is going live. David Whetstone talked to the celebrity baker about his stage show

Paul Hollywood
Paul Hollywood

The Beatles, Dire Straits, Lindisfarne, Springsteen, Clapton, Dylan... all have sent Newcastle City Hall audiences away bathed in the sweat and euphoria of a great gig.

And now comes... Paul Hollywood, a man more likely to send people away with a light dusting of icing sugar. Which begs the question: is baking the new rock and roll?

“Yes,” says the star of The Great British Bake Off, the laugh following the smallest of pauses.

“It just seems to have ticked all the boxes. It’s art, it’s science, it’s really very simple and people can get involved.”

The Great British Bake Off has been attracting audiences of seven million to BBC Two, where tonight you will find finalists Frances, Kimberley and Ruby locked in kitchen combat over pretzels, wedding cake and picnic pie.

Next year the show will transfer to BBC One where, no doubt, it will give Strictly Come Dancing a run for its ratings.

Meanwhile Paul Hollywood will take to the road with a live show called Get Your Bake On! The national tour kicks off at Newcastle City Hall and tickets went on sale yesterday.

Hollywood, despite the name, never dreamed of being a film star or even a train driver.

“Baking has always been part of my life, since I was a little boy,” says the baker’s son from Wallasey.

“My dad offered me a job which came with security and I took it. I left art school and started straight away.”

He began at the bottom, learned the business from some of the best, became the youngest baker at The Dorchester and then set up his own bakery.

When the chance to do some TV work came along, he seized it, believing – as he now says – that “all baking had lacked was a platform”.

“I got approached to do something for Carlton and said yes.” Feeling at ease in front of a camera, he co-presented shows with James Martin for the Carlton Food Network and his face became known.

“But the big one was Bake Off,” he says. With fellow judge Mary Berry he subjects contestants’ baking efforts to intense scrutiny, the vivid blue eyes proving no hindrance at all.

“Oh,” said a female acquaintance recently, “he’s the thinking woman’s crumpet.”

What an apt description! In recent months the ‘crumpet’ has experienced the good and bad of celebrity status as his marriage and his perceived favouring of certain contestants has whipped up little media storms. But what it really indicates is the phenomenal success of the show.

Am I right in thinking it’s all about nostalgia, this fascination for baking?

“Of course,” he replies. “That’s what it’s all about. You go to a town or village, set up a marquee and people think of village fetes. People have always baked but now we have given it this platform and people love it.”

So after television come the theatres and concert halls, beginning at the City Hall.

“I can’t believe I’m following Bob Dylan,” he chortles before explaining that he will demonstrate recipes, talk about his career and bring four people up from the audience to bake with him.

Distinguishing this new rock and roll from the original, those in the first five “VIP” rows will get a glass of Champagne and meet the star before the show. I imagine none of this was on offer when Black Sabbath or Motorhead hit town.

“I like talking to people,” says the star of this very civilised new entertainment offer. “We’ll have a laugh.”

One final question for the famous baker: what’s his favourite hot treat from the oven?

“Well, I do like my bread,” he says. “But you can’t beat a good sausage roll.”

For tickets for Get Your Bake On! at Newcastle City Hall on April 28, 2014, go to www.kililive or tel: 0844 871 8803.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer