Panto is a thrill for Nick

Spooky Men's Chorale. Picture by Sarah Delaney

A Warm Wickham welcome for an army of Spookies

Oh no, you may cry, not another radio presenter who thinks he can hack it as an actor because it's 'only panto'.

But in Nick Girdler's case you would be wrong. The fact is that BBC Radio Solent's Sunday-morning host actually was a professional actor, performing in the first two repertory seasons at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, before he took to the airwaves.

And the reason he snapped up the offer to play King Willy in Jack And The Beanstalk at Southsea this Christmas is simple.

'I never did panto,' says Titchfield-based Nick, 'and how can an ex-actor who has paid 30 years of Equity fees turn that down? It's a thrill to come back to the theatre, especially to one as lovely as the Kings.'

Nick arrived in the Solent area from his native Kent in 1972 to begin his working life as an actor with the Chameleon Theatre In Education company, and at the same time made his first radio appearance in children's programme Albert's Gang.

Since then he has presented every show Solent has ever produced – 'even the gardening programme,' he says.

In 2006 he 'sort of left the BBC' and indulged his love of sailing, but then Solent invited him back on Sunday mornings.

'I'm thoroughly enjoying it,' he says – 'and the beauty of it is that I'll have to miss only one programme to be able to do the panto.'

Although Nick still has a boat, he spends more time repairing it than sailing now. But he does still hold the UK record for underwater broadcasting, at 90 minutes – thanks to the navy providing a tank, he says, and a producer's willingness to complete an enormous health and safety document.

'The trouble was the water looked like mud and you couldn't see in the tank. It was very disorientating, which is why I didn't get the world record.'

Jack And The Beanstalk, running until January 2, also features Britt Ekland, Steven Arnold (formerly Ashley in Coronation Street), Lynne McGranger (Irene in Home And Away), Groundlings Theatre founder and director Richard Stride and comedian Aiden J Harvey.

Tickets: (023) 9282 8282 or kings-southsea.org