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Comic Lee Hurst's Sittingbourne hospital protest ends on a Sheppey beach

By John Nurden

TV panel show celebrity Lee Hurst has launched a new series of sell-out comedy shows in the same town he once threatened to take his own life in.

The former regular on TV sports comedy show They Think It’s All Over sparked a major police chase which ended on the Isle of Sheppey after staging a protest over his dying father’s medical treatment at Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital.

Thirteen years later, he has moved to Swale and is running successful comedy nights at the UKP Leisure Club in the Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne.

Comedian Lee Hurst
Comedian Lee Hurst

Now new dad Lee, 55, has relived the horror of the night he dashed into the sea at The Leas, Minster, pursued by police.

He said: “My dad was dying and had been moved from Maidstone Hospital to Sittingbourne. But it didn’t seem to me he was getting the right pain relief.

“When I arrived, he was in a room with zero medical equipment. I could hear him groaning and I was furious. I wanted him taken back to Maidstone.”

Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital
Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital

When medical staff told him it was “impossible”, he threatened to swallow all his own drugs, prescribed for a painful spinal condition, in the hospital car park.

Lee admitted: “With hindsight, it was a silly thing to do. But I couldn’t stand the sight of my dad in pain. I wanted some leverage to cause enough fuss to get something done.”

When police arrived, Lee took off in his own car and drove to Sheppey 10 miles away, where his mum and sister still live.

The Playa on The Leas at Minster
The Playa on The Leas at Minster

He said: “I ended up in the Playa, where I bought a bottle of water and asked to charge my mobile phone. While I was there, a police car drove past. I told the landlord I thought they were looking for me and ran outside.

“I learned later the police had been tracking my mobile phone.”

The runaway comic dashed across the road and scrambled down the cliffs to the beach but he was pulled to the ground with a dramatic rugby tackle before he was escorted back to the hospital.

He was allowed to stay overnight with his father and the next morning a GP and Macmillan Cancer Support nurse arrived. His dad, a retired London docker, died later that day. He was 74.

Lee said: “I don’t know what would have happened if I had been Joe Public. But because I had been on TV, my actions caused a stir and got things done so my father could at least die in peace.”

Lee’s new series of Local Comedy Clubs, with him and three comics, came after a chance chat at a Sittingbourne Park Run.

The first show at Sittingbourne on Saturday January 27 sold out within hours.

Follow-up shows on March 3 and 10 have also sold out. Tickets are now on sale for the April 28 performance from leehurst.com.

Lee is also running Local Comedy Clubs at the Alexander Rooms, Faversham (June 9) and the Kings Hall, Herne Bay (March 17) plus venues in Chelmsford, Grays and Rayleigh in Essex.

East End lad Lee says he spent many happy summer holidays on Sheppey with his parents at Little Groves caravan park, Leysdown, in the 60s.

Amusement arcades at Leysdown
Amusement arcades at Leysdown

He recalled: “We had a chalet and would use it every weekend. I loved playing in the amusement arcades and on the beach and later bought a chalet of my own.

“Now I can see Sheppey from the other side of The Swale from my new home.”

He can often be seen shopping in Sittingbourne’s Asda supermarket and loves nothing better than relaxing watching a film at Faversham’s Royal Cinema.

He has been married four years to a former barmaid he met at his London comedy club. The couple live in a Tudor-style house with their five-month-old son.

The 6ft 2in bald comic was a panelist on the TV quiz They Think It’s All Over from 1995 to 1998 after being spotted as warm-up man for Have I Got News For You. He also helped warm up the audience for the recordings of science fiction spoof Red Dwarf.

Lee Hurst, left, with host Nick Hancock and Rory McGrath on They Think It's All Over.
Lee Hurst, left, with host Nick Hancock and Rory McGrath on They Think It's All Over.

He handed in his notice to They Think It's All Over producers by putting his feet on the desk during a recording following a row over the show’s contents. He said: “The producers said I left because I was ill. But it was a lie.”

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