Enduring love of Dad’s Army...

So just what is the reason for the continuing popularity of Dad’s Army, a series which is ever more adored the more the years slip by.

“I wish I knew,” says Ian Lavender, one-time Private Pike and sole survivor of the celebrated platoon.

“If I knew, then we would all be millionaires,” laughs Ian, who is heading to Chichester next week to honour his Festival of Chichester commitment.

Ian was due to speak at the summer festival, but Edinburgh came calling.

Ian’s rescheduled date is Monday, November 25 at 3pm when he will be in conversation with distinguished director (and Festival of Chichester committee member) Roger Redfarn, who lives in Westbourne.

The two go back years. Most famously perhaps Roger directed the stage version of Dad’s Army; before that, though, Roger had directed Ian in panto.

“It’s all so long ago,” says Ian - a distance which seems all the greater now with the relatively-recent passing of Clive Dunn and ARP warden Bill Pertwee.

“I am assume they are also preparing my obituary.”

In fact, he knows it’s there. He was seriously ill 25 years or so ago. Which for Ian begs the question.

“If you know they are doing them, why can’t you take part in them?

“It would be nice if someone asked me ‘Have you had a good time?’

“Usually you just get the call asking to interview you about your best friend who has just died.

“After Clive died, there was a film crew outside my door within a couple of hours. It would be nice if you were allowed to find out a different way that your friend has died. I found out from a telephone call asking to speak to me.”

But back to Dad’s Army, a show Ian joined around 18 months after leaving drama school: “Agents put forward people that they think might be right.”

Ian got the job and soon found himself in a very exclusive acting school - one peopled by masters of their trade including John Laurie, Arnold Ridley, Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier.

The first show went out at the end of July 1968: “We started making it in March and April, and it snowed.

“When it went out, I walked down the street expecting everyone to go ‘Oh!’ and nothing happened. The first couple of series were in black and white and then we made them in colour.”

And inevitably, as it progressed, so the characters took shape: “In the first series, it was (writers) Jimmy and David stretching their writing muscles, just as we were stretching our acting muscles.

“You find bits of yourself in the character, and there were things that I didn’t realise until I was a little better experienced.

“At first, it was daunting, but from then on, it was like going to a summer school every year. It was like going to a drama school once a year. Most people leave drama school, and then that’s it.

“But it was great. The series didn’t rest on my shoulders. It was on Arthur’s and John Le Mesurier’s shoulders.”

So did they take him under their wing? Were there members of the cast he was particularly close to?

“It’s an invidious question. I wouldn’t want to imply I wasn’t close to some. I was very close to John Laurie. I was very close to Arthur, and I was very close to Clive, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t extremely fond of John Le Mesurier. Arnold (Ridley), I didn’t have an awful lot to do with because he was 60 years older than me and was as far away the other side of London as possible.”

Tickets can be booked from the Cathedral box office in person or on 01243 813595 or www.chichester tickets.co.uk.