Walking up the iconic cobbles of Gold Hill must have been a bittersweet experience for Alan Manby. He came to visit Shaftesbury’s Gold Hill Museum last Friday. It was his first time in the town – he lost his chance to visit Shaftesbury in 1973, because he refused to have his hair cut for a TV role.
Alan was down to the final two actors auditioning for the role of the bread delivery boy in the famous Ridley Scott-directed Hovis advert. That 30-second long film was recently voted Britain’s ‘all time favourite’ commercial.
Alan isn’t from a showbusiness family. His dad had contacts, though. “At the time my father was a policeman. He knew someone and I went for a couple of auditions. The last one was in the West End. There were about thirty of us there. I got to the last three and then one of them dropped out. Bearing in mind that this was 1973, I had long hair. I was the one who didn’t want to have my hair cut so the other actor got the part,” said Alan.
Alan had to pretend to drink soup as part of his audition. “I had to ask for a hot drink. I had to pretend I was freezing and I’d come in from the cold. There wasn’t a lot of acting. It was just a ten-minute audition in front of their people. I didn’t know what it was going to be for – they just said ‘can you ride a bike?’ And they said I had to be quite fit. At that time I was,” said Alan.
Even though Alan was not successful, he was given a nickname. And it stuck throughout his school years. “When the advert came out, people called me ‘Hovis’ or ‘Hovis Boy’. That’s going back a long while,” he laughed.
Alan didn’t follow an acting career. The audition was a one-off for him. Carl Barlow, who did get the ‘boy on the bike’ part also decided not to work in show business. He’s had a career as a London firefighter. Carl returned to Gold Hill last summer to star in an online video commercial for an electric bike company.
Alan said he enjoyed his first trip to Shaftesbury and he enjoyed seeing Gold Hill, 45 years after narrowly missing out on the chance to push that old-fashioned bike up the cobbles on the small screen.