Comedian, actor and marathon runner EDDIE IZZARD recalls his school days on the East Sussex coast – and working in the café at the De La Warr Pavilion, where he has since performed. Interview: Alex Reece
When I was growing up, I nearly always lived by the sea. I was born in Yemen on the corner of the Red Sea, and then in Northern Ireland, we lived right by the Irish Sea. In Wales we were down near the Severn Estuary – I went to school in Porthcawl.
But it’s Eastbourne through to Bexhill that I have the greatest affinity with, because the South Downs and that coast is very dramatic. From Cuckmere Haven, which is at the end of the Seven Sisters, you go to the foot of the Downs and the next school I went to, which is St Bede’s School in Eastbourne. (My dad was born in Eastbourne and my granddad was born in Eastbourne – my granddad was a milk roundsman daily.) And then you go on through Pevensey and Norman’s Bay, which is where the Normans landed first, all the way to the endless sandy beaches of Bexhill and the De La Warr Pavilion – up to Galley Hill, where Spike Milligan was stationed during the War.
The De La Warr Pavilion is the thing that has changed. It was sort of a dying building when I was working in the self-service café in the late 1970s – £38 a week I was getting in the summer holidays. Now it’s become one of the great arts centres of the South East, and I’ve done gigs on the roof in English and in French.
What else do I do when I go there now? I go and see my dad, because he lives down there. So I walk into my childhood a bit, because it hasn’t changed hugely. I take a train ride from Victoria Station, and it’s as if the train goes back in time, like Alice Through the Looking Glass.