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I TALK TO Diane Chorley

"We've got booths dedicated to all the classics like George Michael and Pauline Quirke."

Cult icon Diane Chorley, returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year with a brand new hour of live music and character comedy in Modern Love and her iconic 80s haunt The Flick has been rebuilt for the occasion, serving as a purpose-built, immersive venue throughout the Fringe.

I caught up with The Duchess of Canvey herself to discuss bringing back The Flick, her feelings towards the festival and she reveals who her dream guest would be. And the answer might surprise surprise you.

For anyone who doesn't know who you are. Who is Diane Chorley?

Well I'm Diane Chorley, I'm from Canvey Island in Essex and I used to run a little club called The Flick which was ever so popular. We had them all there, Barrymore, Lynam, Kylie, Jason - and they were gorgeous times down there they really were.

But there was one horrible night which I don't like speaking about too much but there was a big fire in my club. That night big old magnums of Malibu shot out into the air causing coconut scented fireworks which were reflected in the Thames Estuary. Celebrities were running out into the street terrified and unfortunately I was sent to prison and have only recently got out, about six years ago.

And when you came out, what made you want to be an entertainer?

I'm just trying to claim back what was rightfully mine because I had a few hits back in the day. My album Spicy Heart was quite popular and Rhythm Alive. They were tricky times but I got through them. I had some number one hits in Turkey and now I've come back out I want to reclaim what's rightfully mine. My career, my throne if light entertainment basically.

But now you're bringing The Flick back, this time in Edinburgh?

Yes I am and I'm very excited. It's going to be absolutely stunning. I'm absolutely bleeding delighted that that lot at The Assembly approached me and said "D'ya know what Diane? We want to rebuild your iconic nightclub The Flick." and of course I said yes. They're rebuilding it brick by brick, I've told them every nook and cranny, everything that's happened there in the past.

So there's a little area cordoned off where Donald Trump swallowed a whole mango, just like a python he was, he didn't even blink. We've got booths dedicated to all the classics like George Michael and Pauline Quirke.

It's going to be gorgeous in there and it'll be open all night for people to go in and have a nice old drink. We'll really be bringing the spirit of the Fringe because that club back in the day had everyone in there, the gays, the straights, the bi-linguals - it didn't matter who you was, if you came in to my club you were welcome.

What can people expect from Modern Love?

Modern Love is the show that I've been given some money from the Arts Council to do believe it or not and it's going to be turned into a musical. So Edinburgh will be a little warm-up before me and my little sidekick, Milky tour round the working men's clubs of the UK. Edinburgh will be the first outing of it and then we'll do some more work on it before its next outing.

It's basically about The Flick and why I'm bringing it back after all these years. It's about community and how all these lovely places, these lovely clubs, visited by people to listen to music are all closing. And I'm bringing The Flick back to remind us what's important in life.

How long have you been working on the show for?

It's been a long time to be honest, about seven or eight months. We've got a new director, Phoebe Bourke from Berk's Nest - she's ever so good. She's very rude to me and I don't like it. She tells me what I don't want to hear but apparently it's for the best so I'll believe that when I see it.

She's quite gorgeous if I'm honest and I think the show will be good because of her, so that's quite nice. Berk's Nest are also going co-produce the show. They're ever so bleeding good. I love them. They're a nice bunch and I feel so lucky to be there with them, I really do.

We're going to have a special cocktail, The Duchess cocktail which is my cocktail and then we're going to have The Milky cocktail as well, named after my sidekick Milky what writes all the music with me in this show.

And what's Down The Flick?

That's my late-night show which is on three nights a week where we've got all the big celebrities coming down because you know me, I get all the big celebrities come and do my chat show in Soho Theatre. I've had Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Charlotte Church, Laura Marlin, I've had them all.

So we'll have all the big names in Edinburgh, I'll do a few songs, they'll come on and do a bit of their set from their show and then we'll have a little chat. It'll be ever so good. But people better get their tickets because it's selling out quick!

Who would your dream guest be?

I think it would be Cilla Black. We never saw eye-to-eye because she stole my look and my hair colour and I never really forgave her for that. She won the court case so fair game but in real life I could never forgive her. Now looking back I realise that we had a lot more in common and I miss her and I wish I could have her back for an evening so that we could sit there and chat.

What keeps you coming back to Edinburgh?

D'ya know what? I don't like it. Not at my age, it's horrible. The other time I was there I was paying for someone in the Spar and this woman came and grabbed me and told me I should go and watch her show so I said "No babe, I'm busy."

She pretty much dragged me by collar and sat me in a room for an hour where she talked to only me about her hip replacement and I was into it but then I thought, I could hear that from my next door neighbour. At the end of the show she put a bucket out for me to put some money in and you know what I put in there? An invoice.

But do you enjoy performing there?

Of course I do and of course I'm looking forward to being in a room full of people every day rather than a caravan like I was a few years ago. I don't like all the walking, but I do like those little pies what they fill up with curry. I'm looking forward to being there and doing my art.

Who are you most looking forward to watching perform?

There's a few other shows going up there what I like Bryony Kimmings and Scottee and they're doing shows that I kind of like, so I'm looking forward to them.

I'm also looking forward to Lola & Jo, they're very good, Róisín and Chiara they're my gorgoeus little pumpkins, I love them too. Loads of stuff!

Finally, how would you sum Edinburgh in just five words?

ChickenCurryPie. Sweltering. Electric. Disco. Duchess.

Diane Chorley: Modern Love runs from 1st - 25th August (not 14th) at 8pm at the Assembly George Square Studios (The Flick at Underground). Book tickets here.

Diane Chorley: Down The Flick runs 2nd - 4th, 9th - 11th, 16th - 18th, 23rd - 25th August at 11pm at the Assembly George Square Studios (The Flick at Underground). Book tickets here.


This interview was given by David Selley in character as Diane Chorley, a character he created as a love letter to the working classes, the strong independent women of Essex and the sequin drenched glamour of the 1980s.


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