The man who licked cathedrals for a bet, Lawrence Edmonds, talks to the man who took a fridge round Ireland as he prepares for a return trip to York
Tony Hawks is a man who likes a challenge. In 1997 he accepted and won a bet to hitchhike around Ireland with a particularly cumbersome kitchen accessory for company, an adventure which was subsequently recounted in his bestselling book, Round Ireland With A Fridge. The magical madness of it all captured the imagination of millions, including myself as a teenager.
Hawks’ inspiring writing is infused with the joy of leaving your comfort zone and the fun that can be had by doing so. He has since gone on to adapt the book into a film, which will be shown at this year’s York Literature Festival. I chatted with the comedian, author, musician and now film-maker to find out more…
Hi Tony. What will you be getting up to at this year’s Literature Festival?
I’ll be presenting the film version of my book Round Ireland With A Fridge and describing the process of taking a film from the page to the screen. The whole theme of the evening will be on how a book can be transferred into the cinema arena.
What was it like re-living your famous fridge quest for the film?
It was fun, but also quite strange, especially when things were very similar to actually what happened. There were a couple of surreal moments, such as when we were doing a test shot of me hitching by a roadside with the cameras hidden from view. We didn’t actually want anyone to stop of course, because we just needed footage of cars going past me. One person did stop and offer me a lift though and I had to say “would you mind not stopping? You’re ruining this shot!” And there was another occasion when some people pulled in and said “Oh, it’s you! You’re still doing it!”
You brought out a film version of another book of yours, Playing The Moldovans At Tennis. Can we hope to see it at the festival in 2014? Also, are you still in touch with any of the Moldovan footballers from the book?
Yes, I do hope so. I did show it once at the City Screen in York last year while on tour, but it would be great to come back and do a similar thing to what I’ll be doing this time around. As for the footballers, the only one I’m still in touch with is Ion Testimiţanu, who is now the assistant coach of the national team. I bump into him a lot when I’m in Moldova [Tony is heavily involved in charity work in the country and opened the Hippocrates Children’s Centre in the capital, Chisinau, in the year 2000] and he once told me a great story. He said that after he had played against me he started spending a lot of time playing tennis with his daughter. She is now the number one player in Moldova!
From reading your books it’s clear that you enjoy a challenge and a good adventure. Do you think that more people should take risks and do things out of the ordinary, as you have done?
Well, I don’t think that they should, but they would gain a lot if they did. It doesn’t matter what you do, but sometimes going out of your comfort zone is a good thing, even though sometimes it can be painful. If life is comfortable the whole time it gets rather dull. It would be good if people explored some new things, but within reason. Don’t go risking your life doing it!
During my cathedral-licking bet people were constantly telling me I was mad and wouldn’t succeed. It was the same story for you in Ireland and Moldova. Did this drive you on?
I suppose so, yes. I think there’s a slight stubbornness about it. You think to yourself “I’ll try and see this out”, although there were a couple of times in Moldova when I really did think I’d had it and that things weren’t going to happen. But I thought that there was still a story in it, and I now think that it’s a better story for having kept going and managing to succeed. People often ask me what I’m going to do next, but I’m not certain I’ve got the energy for it now. I saw something about your bet and said to myself “gosh, and I thought I was a lunatic!”
What are you working on at the minute?
I’ve been writing a kids’ book which I’m just finishing off, but I still don’t know whether it’s any good! I’ve written a comedy musical as well, and I’ve recorded an album of music so I’ve been very busy. There’s also the possibility of another little tour so I might be back in York again soon.
Finally, what are your impressions of York?
I think it’s a sh*thole! Ha ha, no, only joking. I can remember going up there when I was young and being completely bowled over by it. I actually went for an interview at the University of York but they didn’t give me an offer. Subsequently I have only been back once, but my dad was from somewhere just outside York so my roots are there, so it will be interesting to go back.
- Tony will be appearing at York’s City Screen on Wednesday, March 20 at 8pm, as part of York Literature Festival. Tickets cost £10 for adults and £8 for concessions. Call City Screen on 0871 902 5726 or visit the website
- York Literature Festival runs from March 19-24 in venues across the city
- You can download a PDF programme here
- Visit Tony’s website here
- Check out Round Ireland With A Fridge: the movie here