Former Huddersfield gymnast and pub landlord Brian Hayhurst and his wife Elaine are ex-pats who have lived just outside Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol for 20 years. He writes every week for Huddersfield Hub.

This is a mere glance at a quite remarkable entertainer here on the Costa del Sol.

Like other performers John Sharples suffered desperately during the pandemic. But throughout it all John was battling throat cancer as well. At one stage he was going hungry with no money for food coming in.

The aggressive cancer, which John thinks began with a fish bone lodged in his oesophagus, spread up his neck and meant he had to have part of his jugular vein removed! Chemo and radiotherapy left him terribly ill.

John was born in Preston but doesn’t have a Lancashire accent. He has lived on Spanish soil for 24 years, and speaks the lingo fluently after being self-taught.

For over 12 years he has been part of a duo with his cabaret partner Barry Pugh, and has entertained many thousands as ‘Dragtastic’ with a fun packed show – much hilarity, slightly risqué but no swearing. “More of a panto act,” he describes it as.

The three-hour show has enthralled crowds in Greece, Italy, Venice and Morocco. Plus of course, the entire Costa coastline.

I was privileged to get John to sit down briefly and talk about his busy life, past and present, including a wide range of charity events to which he freely offers his professional services, plus the shows and three books he is writing.

Dragtastic fantastic

As a youngster he was relentlessly bullied at Walton le Dale Primary School from the minute he entered, being then a quiet, rather shy boy. But he conquered this by sharpening his wit and making fun of his attackers, which got the praise of his school mates.

Asked about his showbiz background he said: “My dad played Stan Ogden in Coronation Street for 20 years and it seemed obvious I would do some form of entertaining.

“I became entertainments manager for Airtours at big hotels in Tenerife (14 years) and later Mallorca. After returning to the UK I was quickly snapped up by Pontins as a top Blue Coat (seven years), then on to the Costa del Sol.”

The hard-working pair create all their own costumes, and there can be as many as 20 changes per show, with new sketches introduced monthly.

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The all-important backing music is produced in John’s front room, skilfully adding sound effects – brilliantly mixed with popular tracks. The enormous eyelashes are cut out of black plastic and stuck on with Copydex.

Two of the charity organisations he gives a lot of time to are the Lions Club, which helps many needy groups and individuals, and ACE, a dog rescue centre.

John said: “I cannot believe people can mistreat animals so badly. The voluntary staff often find dogs thrown over their fence overnight, badly injured and sometimes with broken limbs.”

Asked about the books he’s writing, John said: “All ongoing. I’m half way through two. The Entertainers Guide covers all aspects of what it takes to prepare and please an audience and another is on poetry I have written. Finally, there’s My Memoirs and, my goodness, there is much to tell!”

John, who hates the sun, only returns to the UK to see his mother, who is resident in a home with Alzheimer’s.

He was in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest individual disco dancer in the mid-80s – and he also teaches Spanish to several groups here. What a guy and what a story he has to tell. Can’t wait for the memoirs!