‘Putting up the Christmas tree was a novelty' - King’s panto star Grant Stott is home for the festivities
Hisses and boos have become a normal part of Christmas for the Capital’s favourite panto baddie over the last 21 years.
That's how Grant Stott has been 'scaring the kiddies' as part of the triumvirate at the heart of the King's festive spectacular. From ugly sister, to evil demon and just downright bad daftie, the popular radio presenter has played them all.
Like everyone, this year, his festive season is somewhat different to previous ones, but there is one huge upside, no panto at the Old Lady of Leven Street means he gets to spend time with his family, including daughter Lori, who in all her 19 years has never known her dad to be around the family home for the whole of the Christmas season.
"It's my first Christmas at home since 1999, and that was before Lori, my youngest was born, so it's a real novelty for the whole family to have me stotting around because I'm not normally here at all. It's kind of weird for Lori because she hasn't known anything else because Christmas is dad goes off to panto."
An unusual end then, to what has been a unique year for Grant who presents The Afternoon Show and Grant Stott's Vinyl Collective on BBC Radio Scotland.
Reflecting, he says, "I did about 10 weeks of the Afternoon Show from home, but given the nature of the programme, with so many guests and lines to set up, I was just another worry for the engineering staff. In that time, the studios in Edinburgh were made safe and distanced so I went back in.
"I quite enjoyed working from home but it was quite bizarre, plugging in the kit while stotting about in my jammies. At that time Claire and the kids were here, so it was a full house and they all had to keep quiet for the two and a half hours I was on air. Then we had a power cut one day... it was best all round for me to get out of the house and into work. So I've been quite lucky, getting to go into work each week. That's been the saving grace for me."
Normally at this time of year, Grant who admits to being a “very young 53-year-old” would be juggling the day job with pantomime, doing two show days for much of the run, instead he finds himself preparing for "as near a proper family Christmas as we can" due to the pandemic.
"Usually I’m now running about doing the radio in the morning and the panto in the afternoon. This year it's really weird, because I’m working through the week I'm not really noticing the panto is not there Monday to Friday, but Saturdays and Sundays, when I am off, are the toughest as normally they are absolutely panto days."
He continues, “Claire runs Christmas, it's her gig, she makes it happen and has done for years and this time I was around for the putting up of the tree, which was a novelty - usually I go out to do a matinee and when I come back the tree is up and the house is all decorated.
"So to be here when that was done was great. It was just the two of us at that point but Claire is very set in her ways and knows how she likes thing done, so I just adhered to the rules and did as I was told."
He laughs, "It's the most sensible way to ensure longevity in life, I find."
When Christmas Day comes, the family of four, 23-year-old son Sam completes the quartet, will enjoy a low-key day, says Grant.
"It will be really strange because I've still got my parents and Claire has her mum and we can't have them around as we would normally do. So we are trying to manage that and have as warm a family Christmas as we can while trying to adhere to what we are allowed to do.
"Christmas Day itself will be very quiet, here with the kids. My mum and dad are both 80 and Claire's mum is 81 so they are going to stay put, having stayed in lockdown throughout. As we are so close to the vaccine we decided let's not be daft, let’s keep everybody safe. So we'll knock their door, drop their presents off on the doorstep and give them a little wave from down the garden path, then the four of us will do some nice food and drinks and things.
"It will just be nice to be around without having to rush off to do a Boxing Day matinee the next morning."
The turkey and trimmings can wait until the Spring, he says.
"Normally we all go to Prestonfield on Christmas Day, it’s my escape for all the family, it takes away the stress of deciding who goes where. Obviously we can't do that, so we'll postpone that until the Spring or whenever we can."
As he looks to next year's return to the King's, Grant recalls his favourite panto gag, one that dates back to one of his earliest pantos... in Glasgow of all places.
"The one that always tickled me was from when I was in Cinderella in 1995. An old gag, it was the first time I’d seen it done properly. The ugly sisters had arrived, played by Elaine C Smith and Barbara Rafferty, Jackie Farrel was Baron Hardup, Buttons was played by the lovely Gerard Kelly and I was Dandini.
"Basically, the Baron had just welcomed the ugly sisters, complete with all their bags and cases to Hardup Hall and he said, 'Right Buttons, get the bags off the stage.' At which point Kelly just pointed to Smithy and Barbara and said, 'Right, you two, get inside.'
"His delivery was just brilliant. All these years on, that is still the gag that sticks in the memory."