Comedian Kieran Hodgson was raised in the Holme Valley and is making a welcome return to the area as one of the stars of the Holmfirth Arts Festival with his one-man show Lance

Everyone has heard of cyclist Lance Armstrong, the disgraced Tour de France champion, but until now he’s never been the subject of a touring comedy show.

For Holmfirth-born Kieran Hodgson, however, the story of Lance’s rise and fall offered a rich seam of material for a new one-man production he was putting together.

And so the 28-year-old, a keen cyclist himself, set about creating Lance, a work that is as heavily influenced by his Yorkshire upbringing as it is by the legendary sportsman.

So far Lance has proved to be a winner with audiences up and down the country. Kieran has appeared everywhere from Bath and Exeter in the South to Kendal in the North and this month he’s bringing the show to its first Yorkshire venues. On Friday, June 24, he’s taking part in the Holmfirth Arts Festival with a performance in the civic hall (ticket details from holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk), at which he’s expecting to see some familiar faces in the audience.

Kieran, a former student at Holmfirth High School and Greenhead College, says audience members locally may even recognise some of the characters in Lance. And it won’t be the first time he’s based a comedy routine on people he knows and once knew. At school he won talent competitions with his impersonations of everyone from teachers to the Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong

His mum and dad, Rob and Pat Hodgson, who still live in Holmfirth, will be there to see him action – a fact that delights him. “If it wasn’t for my parents encouraging me I don’t think I’d be doing what I do,” says Kieran, who now lives in London. “I wouldn’t have given it a go.

“I used to memorise bits of Fawlty Towers and Blackadder and repeat it for them, doing the voices. They were very proud of me when I was at school and winning the talent shows.”

As well as comedy, Kieran has also had straight acting parts in radio; a tiny role as a chef in Downton Abbey (“blink and you’d miss me”); portrayed Jonathan Harker in Dracula! Mr Swallow The Musical; appeared in many other television series, including Jonathan Creek, Drifters, Siblings and We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story (in which he played Ian Lavender); and is a regular at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He’s also involved in a number of writing projects for television.

At this point in his career, with so many irons in the fire, Kieran is unsure where the future will take him. And, because showbusiness is so unreliable and fickle, he still does some private tutoring “to make ends meet”. But, it’s fair to say, that his is a name to follow with interest.

Kieran knew from a fairly early age that he enjoyed performing but says his parents thought he should get a solid academic grounding that he could fall back on. However, it was as an Oxford undergraduate, studying history and French, that his career began. He explained: “I joined the sketch group the Oxford Review, started doing comedy there and went to the Edinburgh Festival. I had a pretty good idea that this was what I wanted to do.”

Performers in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on High Street Edinburgh
Performers in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on High Street Edinburgh

He is currently writing a new show for this year’s festival fringe and all he can say at the moment is that it will be about music. Modestly, he admits to being a “amateurish” violinist with an amateur orchestra, but one suspects that this is another of his many talents.

Kieran says live audiences seem to enjoy stories about his own life – “they seem to connect to that” – which is why he thought Lance would go down so well. He added: “There was a gap in the market – I had never heard of a comedy show about cycling before. And Lance Armstrong is a real life character who is very familiar, for good reasons or bad. I wanted to tell his global story through the eyes of someone in West Yorkshire.

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“I was a big cyclist and all my friends were into mountain biking. We used to do the Holme Valley Mountain Biking Challenge every year. In the show I imagine Lance Armstrong appearing to us all in this race.”

His show leads the audience through his early years: cycling with best friends in the Boy Scouts (inspired by Lance), the university experience, subsequent move to the entertainment hub of London, and then culminates with the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire two years ago and Lance Armstrong’s exposure for doping.

As Kieran says: “I’m over the moon to be ending my tour in my home town, especially as so much of the show is a love-letter to the Holme Valley. Hopefully the crowd of former teachers and scout leaders won’t be too harsh.”