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Fife’s Singing Kettle star Artie reveals highs and lows of 45 years on the road

'I never went away,' says Artie Trezise, 76, as he launches new solo show and promises to 'bring back the Kettle'.

Artie Tresize is back on the road with Artie's Singing Kettle. Image: Rebecca Baird/DC Thomson.
Artie Tresize is back on the road with Artie's Singing Kettle. Image: Rebecca Baird/DC Thomson.

Few people wield fame as well as The Singing Kettle founder Artie Tresize.

It’s been eight years since the beloved children’s show was taken off the boil, with Artie and his wife Cilla stepping back as the rest of The Singing Kettle team moved on with new project, Funbox.

Yet when we meet in Lower Largo – a special place for Fifer Artie’s family, where his mother’s ashes are scattered – the local legend can’t go more than 20 minutes without one of his many adoring fans sidling up to say hello.

The Singing Kettle’s last ever Fife show: Kevin Macleod, Anya Scott-Rodgers and Gary Coupland take a bow at Dunfermline’s Alhambra. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

“I recognised you immediately,” says Largo woman Lorna Ferguson, approaching Artie as we chat in the charming Aurrie cafe.

“I have three children, 52, 50 and 44, and they were all brought up on The Singing Kettle. So was my granddaughter, she’s 27,” she continues.

“I remember her at three, standing in front of the television, singing along – she knew it all off by heart!”

After a few minutes, Lorna bids Artie goodbye, beaming. Over the course of the next hour, this happens two more times.

Each time, Artie greets the stranger like a friend, and lets them chat until they are ready to leave.

It’s easy to see why the Kettle has been beloved for more than 40 years – and it goes beyond the earworm catchiness of Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny Aff A Bus.

‘Kids love to sing’

But for 76-year-old Artie, the secret to the Kettle’s endurance is simple – and not much to do with him.

“Kids love to sing,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s a very natural thing, and people love to sing for their kids. We all do it, every culture.”

Though he admits that if he was starting the business now, “it would be the Singing and Dancing Kettle”, observing that “kids are much more keen on movement nowadays”.

As it is, he’s working with a decades-long legacy, meaning he has the unique position of playing a children’s show for both today’s kids, and the now-grown kids of years gone by.

“Tonight, there’ll be a whole lot of adults who were consumers when they were five years old, and now they’re bringing their kids,” explains Artie.

Artie Trezise entertains children – and former children! Image: John Young @YoungMedia.

“I try to concentrate on the kids but my eyes wander to the adults – it’s like a regression therapy, you can see them becoming kids again.

“Their eyes light up, it’s touching something in their soul. It’s quite special.”

Artie and Cilla ‘resisted’ kids’ entertainment

Ironically, Artie reveals that he and his wife and singing partner Cilla Fisher “resisted doing stuff for kids” when they were folk singers in the 1970s.

“Our daughter was the inspiration for it all,” he explains. “She would’ve been maybe six or seven when she suggested we should make a recording of the songs we sing in the car.

“Then when we toured in America, we had seen other people doing a special album for kids, of folk music. So it was one of those perfect storms – and suddenly this album sold out in a matter of weeks.

“It sold more than anything we had ever done before, combined.”

From there, The Singing Kettle was born – named for Artie and Cilla’s hometown, Kingskettle.

Artie, Cilla and Gary with a rather large kettle in the town where it all began. Image: DC Thomson.

It rocketed the pair to fame and took them all over the world, with some surprising celebrity guests to their shows standing out in Artie’s memory.

“We had a whole outing from Coronation Street when we played down near Manchester, the whole cast were there,” he recalls.

“And we used to get a lot of Scottish celebrities coming in. Nicola Sturgeon came, before she was First Minister.”

But by far the most lavish Singing Kettle show took place in the royal palace of Jordan – a long way from Kingskettle!

Princess of Jordan was ‘a big fan’ of the Kettle

“We got a call from the secretary of the king and queen of Jordan, asking if we’d go and play for them out in Jordan. Princess Salma was a big fan – it turned out her nanny was from South Queensferry, so that’s how the connection was made!

“So we went and played for them in their palace. It was amazing.”

The Singing Kettle has a die-hard fan following, including Gordon Payne, the artist behind this drawing of Artie and his kettles. Image: Gordon Payne.

Disaster struck when the airline lost the case full of kettles on the way to the royal palace.

Luckily Artie had a spare in his carry-on, and the king generously gave the team his account at a local toy warehouse to fill out the rest of the show.

“The kettles arrived the day we were leaving,” laughs Artie wryly. “But we managed!”

‘Cilla didn’t want to do it anymore’

In 2015, Cilla retired from the business which had built their livelihoods – but Artie wasn’t ready to let go of the Kettle.

“My wife Cilla didn’t want to do it anymore,” Artie explains. “But I never went away.”

Immediately after “retiring” in 2015, Artie developed a new live show, Artie’s Tartan Tales, which he did until lockdown stopped him touring.

Artie Trezise performing his storytelling show, Tartan Tales. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

It was during the advent of Zoom that he picked up the Kettle again – using tiny souvenir kettles from the business’ shop and “making them look big on camera”.

And he found that worldwide excitement for the Singing Kettle was still piping hot.

“I loved doing the Zoom shows, they were great,” he enthuses. “I would have a big audience, people from all over the world – North America, England, a family from Turkey who were massive fans.

“So that was a bit of a trigger to do it full time and bring back the Kettle.”

Artie Trezise is back on the road with Artie’s Singing Kettle. Image: Rebecca Baird/DC Thomson.

Now he’s back with Artie’s Singing Kettle, a brand new show for 2023 where he’s dusting off the giant kettles and asking once again: “Spout, handle, lid of metal, what’s inside the Singing Kettle?”

And although he enjoys the “simplicity” of solo touring – “no trucks or props or merch, just me and the kettles in the car” – he admits there are drawbacks to going it alone.

No sign of running out of steam for Artie

“I miss playing with other people somewhat, because I’ve played with some great people,” he says candidly.

“My wife is a fantastic singer, and it was just wonderful hearing her singing every day. And Gary [Coupland] was just amazing, a fantastic musician the likes of which you’ll very seldom find.”

On the other hand, Artie enjoys the freedom that a solo show provides, pointing out that his gigs can range from a morning at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, working individually with disabled children, to a 1,000-capacity gig in Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre this autumn.

And he’s even taking on festival season, playing a special show in North Berwick as part of the annual Fringe By The Sea celebration.

“I just take whatever I fancy,” he says. “I’ve made a good living off The Singing Kettle for 30 years, so the financial pressure is off. But it does work financially, really well.”

Artie’s Singing Kettle at Aberdeen Arts Centre. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Now based in Glasgow, perpetual performer Artie has a side gig as a tour guide for the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

“It’s a bit like a gig, bringing strangers together” he laughs. “I love doing it because it’s like tourism without travelling. I’ve always loved meeting people from other countries and cultures, but this way I don’t have to go to other places – they come to me!”

At 76, Artie is showing no signs of slowing down, but he admits he knows there will come a day when he has to unplug the Kettle for good.

“I can see I’ll have to retire properly, one day,” he says. “But it’s a day I don’t look forward to.”

Artie’s Singing Kettle will be at Fringe By The Sea on Wednesday August 9. The show will also play at Rothes Halls, Whitehall Theatre, The Alhambra and Aberdeen Arts Centre this autumn.

See the venues’ websites for details and ticket prices.