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Barry Ashworth & Howard Marks in Conversation

11538812-largeHoward Marks is still smiling – and he’s coming to Exeter Phoenix

He’s a man who needs no introduction – and Exeter audiences are being warned to “expect the unexpected” when Howard Marks appears at the Exeter Phoenix next week.

One-time drugs baron, and now renowned orator, Howard is facing perhaps his toughest challenge yet as he battles terminal cancer.

But he says: “I still believe in miracles, like any sexy thing.”

And as he refuses to let his illness get him down, he’s heading to the Phoenix for a special show in conversation with old friend Barry Ashworth of Dub Pistols fame.
Despite undergoing gruelling chemotherapy for bowel cancer, which has spread to other organs, Howard’s indomitable spirit is proving as strong as ever.

Revealing how he remains positive in the face of such a bleak prognosis, he said: “One doesn’t really start living until one knows one’s dying.”

And his latest ventures show how his illness is failing to stop him doing what he loves.

Since his diagnosis more than a year ago, not only has he defeated the doctors’ predictions of having just 10 months to live, the Mr Nice author has released a brand new book – Mr Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament – and has got back on the road with his latest tour.

Howard says his work has helped him to focus in the face of his illness.

“Such a focus has been more than essential,” he said. “Doing what I’ve always done is the best medicine.”

Howard, from Bridgend in Wales, has lived an incredible life, metamorphosing from notorious drug smuggler to national treasure.

He’s even had a film made of his life – with Rhys Ifans in the starring role.

And he says Exeter audiences can “expect the unexpected” as he chats to old drinking buddy Barry.

He said: “It would be difficult to rule out any raucous tales of misbehaviour or misdemeanour.

“But we are more than capable of making serious issues hilarious.

“Our partnership is of several years’ standing. It began when my promoter Biff Mitchell first tour managed the Dub Pistols at a venue in London – Brixton, if my memory serves me correctly, which it rarely does.

“I was invited to the gig and spent virtually the entire evening discussing all and everything with Barry.

“Although I’d met him a few times before, this was the first deep and meaningless conversation we had.

“We’ve had several since, but not in public. The people of Exeter can, of course, expect the unexpected.”

Howard is a regular name on the line-up for the Beautiful Days festival – held at Escot, near Ottery St Mary – and is looking forward to coming “home” for the Phoenix show, saying the county has a special place in his heart.

He said: “The people of Devon, with the possible exception of the Welsh, are the best in the world. My daughter, Myfanwy, has lived in Devon for several decades. In many ways, Devon is home for me.”

Arranging the tour has proved more difficult than usual because of his illness; his treatment schedule means shows can only be arranged three or four weeks in advance.

Howard has endured 30 sessions of chemotherapy – where most people go through between six and 10 – and although the cancer will not be beaten completely, the treatment is having a positive effect.

Howard said: “The tumours are shrinking, but there’s no chance of any remission.

“It’s a straightforward terminal disease.

“But I do believe in miracles, like any sexy thing.”

You can see Howard Marks in conversation with Barry Ashworth at the Exeter Phoenix on Wednesday, December 16, at 7.30pm.

Howard will be also showing one of his short films, taking a question and answer session, and holding a book signing at the end of the night

Tickets are £20 plus booking fee. Call 01392 667080 or visit