WHEN Mark ‘Bez’ Berry stepped onto a stage brandishing a set of maracas to help out his mate Shaun Ryder back in 1985, he had no clue that his life was about to change forever.

And one thing he certainly didn’t imagine was that more than 30 years on he’d still be dancing with his trusty shakers, performing to millions of fans all around the world.

“Let’s be honest, it’s amazing we are all still here getting to do what we love,” he admits. “I do have to thank my lucky stars that it all worked out like this.

“If I look back to 1985 when I joined the band, I didn’t think 30 years down the line we’d still be doing it. I don’t know what I imagined the future held back then, but this life now certainly wasn’t it.”

To a whole generation of people growing up in the 80s and 90s, Bez remains a welcome reminder of the heady days of the ‘Madchester’ scene. He joined the band almost by accident, when his friend, Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder, pretty much dragged him on stage ahead of a TV performance supporting New Order at Manchester’s famous Hacienda nightclub. It later emerged that this impromptu appearance happened because Ryder was high on drugs and refused to go on alone, but it was a move that shaped the future of the band.

Even now when Happy Mondays perform live, Bez probably gets the largest cheer of all the band members. Far more than just the man who shakes his maracas with Happy Mondays, he has become a bit of a TV favourite, winning Celebrity Big Brother in 2005 and famously beating royal correspondent James Whitaker on ITV’s Don’t Call Me Stupid in 2007.

Next month, he will appear on a special celebrity version of Bargain Hunt where he and his band-mate Rowetta take on Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Candida Doyle – the upshot of which he is sworn to secrecy over, but confirms it will be worth watching for comedy value. However, before that goes out, Bez has a far more important date in County Durham as the Happy Mondays headline Hardwick Live at Hardwick Hall, Sedgefield, on Sunday. The appearance comes as the band tackle the UK festival scene this summer following a tough 28-day tour in 2017, and Bez says this sort of appearance is his favourite.

“Festivals like Hardwick Live are great because you never know what they’re going to bring and as a band it gives you the chance to be seen by totally new audiences.

“We all find now that most younger people don’t have a clue who we are, and those who do will have only heard about us from their parents. Performing on today’s festival scene is giving people who weren’t around in the 80s and 90s the chance to see what it was all about, and as a band we love that.”

And as the band continue to make an army of new fans this way, it’s also been a bit of an education for Bez too.

“We’ve had a right laugh. I did a festival recently which ended up with me getting a load of kids onto the stage to try and teach me the floss dance. What’s that all about, eh? I think I need a bit more practice at it, I’m going to get my youngest to teach me I think but it was hilarious – it’s taken over the world at the minute, I wish I’d invented it.”

While he may look the picture of fitness when he’s up on stage, he admits that now at the ripe old age of 54, things aren’t quite as easy as they once were. However, it seems to be doing little to slow down the man who released a best-selling book entitled Freaky Dancin telling the story of his life back in 2000.

“I’ll be honest, after the big tour last year I was more a case of creaky dancing. It’s not as easy as it was, I tell you. My joints, my muscles, everything was knackered after that. My physical fitness isn’t what it was 30 years ago, I’ve still got some mental fitness but I think that’s starting to fade as well. You just get on with it though, it’s still a dream job at the end of the day.”

When he’s not dancing up a storm with the band, Bez admits his down-time is far more sedate than it once was. Becoming a granddad in 2012, he now holidays in places like Cornwall with the family, surfing, sailing and doing normal family things.

“I do still work hard and it means I can play hard as well if we want to – although for me these days playing hard is chilling out and riding my motorbike and spending time with the young uns.

“See, I try to live a sustainable lifestyle as much as possible and I know the bike doesn’t really fit into that but it’s just the way it is. No-one’s perfect I guess.”

• Happy Mondays are performing at Hardwick Live on August 18 and 19. See hardwicklive.co.uk