Billy Connolly returns to TV for show on shipyard painter

SIR Billy Connolly is to return to television screens to front an arts programme about one of his favourite painters.

Billy Connolly. Picture: PA
Billy Connolly. Picture: PA

The comedian, who is battling Parkinson's disease, has just finished filming a documentary for Sky Arts where he explored the background of a painting by Sir Stanley Spencer.

In ‘Tate Britain’s Great British Art Walks’ celebrities choose a painting in Tate Britain and then an episode is filmed on the landscape that inspired it.

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Filming in Cookham, Berkshire, began in November after Billy Connolly selected Spencer’s ‘The Resurrection, Cookham.’

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The stand-up worked as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards before finding fame as a comic.

Connolly appeared last August in a BBC documentary called Portrait of a Lifetime, in which portraits by three acclaimed artists - John Byrne, Jack Vettriano and Rachel Maclean - were translated into stunning gable end tenement murals.

Mike Reilly, who directed the Sky Arts show featuring Connolly, said: “It has been delightful for us looking for elements of the paradise Spencer saw in Cookham.

"You play at being Stanley and start looking for angels down alleyways.

"Spencer was a unique artist and thinker. He created such an immense sense of scale in paint, blowing Cookham up into something really grand, comparable to Jerusalem.”

Connolly, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, recently moved from New York to Florida as his doctors had advised him to live in a warmer climate.

The stand-up recently revealed how continuing to work helped him cope with the symptoms of Parkinson's.

He said: "It's a miracle. I think science should study it. I've gone on stage sick and come off better.

"And then the minute it's finished, you get sick as if your illnesses are all waiting to happen.

"The Parkinson's just rolls along singing a song. So I keep trying to find lighter things to say about it, because they notice I've got it. I walk differently than I used to and I don't move as much onstage as I used to.

"I just point out the darker side of it, like banning Jerry Lee Lewis from the house 'cause he sings 'Whole Lotta Shakin'."

A Sky spokesman confirmed the programme will be aired later this year.