Craig Charles thought he was having heart attack during BBC Radio 6 Music show

Craig Charles issues warning over candles after house fire

Craig Charles was rushed to hospital last month with chest pains and – after losing his older brother nine years ago to a heart attack – the DJ and star of sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf was convinced he was about to meet a similar fate.

The 58-year-old, who already has four coronary stents after his own heart attack several years ago, started to feel unwell while hosting his BBC Radio 6 music afternoon show and feared the worst.

“When we were doing the show, my hand couldn’t grip the pen properly,” he tells the Daily Express. “My fingers were tingling. I had pain on the right side of my shoulder, running up my neck and into the back of my head.

Members of my production team told me to go to the hospital but I was like, ‘No, no, no! We’ll get through the show, we’ll get through the show’.

“My initial fear was that I was having a heart attack, especially after losing my brother and having already had one myself. My wife Jackie met me when I finished my show at 4pm and drove me from the BBC in Salford to Wythenshawe Hospital.”

There, Craig was given the full check-up and, thankfully, his heart and his brain were both healthy. After 24 hours in the hospital, he was sent home none the wiser about what had caused his discomfort, but relieved nonetheless. “Thank God, it wasn’t a heart attack,” he sighs.

It’s been nearly nine years since Craig lost his brother Dean, 52, to the deadly genetic heart condition, familial hypercholesterolaemia. The disease narrows arteries, partially or completely blocking the flow of blood and, if left untreated, can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Dean suffered a fatal blood clot and his heart stopped.

What made it even worse for Craig was that, at the time, in 2014, he was thousands of miles away in the Australian jungle, a contestant on I’m a Celebrity… What’s more, he was locked up in the ‘jungle jail’ with campmate Gemma Collins. The producers had to give him the dreadful news. Initially they took him to see the doctor.

“I thought they were about to do a psychological examination because I’d been stuck in the jungle jail for six days,” Craig recalls. “I expected them to say, ‘How are you feeling, heading into the big camp now?’ But they didn’t. They said, “We have terrible news: your brother has died. I was in total disbelief. He wasn’t ill but he had a deadly heart attack.”

Dean was two years older than Craig and “a fitness freak”. Unlike his younger brother, he neither smoked nor drank. “I was later told it was a genetic heart condition and that I needed to be checked out,” Craig says. “But I never did.”

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Four years later, in 2018, the TV star’s blasé attitude nearly cost him his life when he suffered a heart attack at home. It was only thanks to his wife that he survived.

She had been abroad in Ireland when Craig started to feel sick. He phoned her to describe his symptoms – a tingling jaw and a cold sweat. Advised by her sister-in-law, a nurse, she told him to call an ambulance immediately. Unwisely, he decided to wait until her return to the UK the following morning.

On the phone, the emergency services were extremely worried. “The woman on the other end of the line was like, ‘What colour is he?’, and Jackie replied, ‘He’s brown!’,” Craig remembers. “So, there I am, laughing my socks off and having a heart attack at the same time.”

His life was saved when surgeons inserted the coronary stents into the arteries in his wrist before guiding them up into his heart.

“The NHS staff were absolutely brilliant,” he revealed in a previous interview. “A lot of the surgeons were Red Dwarf fans – ‘There’s Lister in the bed!’ they said. But I was lucky.”

Since then, Craig has prudently toned down his party lifestyle. “Well, I am 58, and you calm down naturally,” he says. “But I still vape. Is that my only vice? Well, I drink too much. It is hand in hand with being on the road. You have to live as well.”

Born in Liverpool in 1964, Craig began his career as a professional footballer, with a short stint at Merseyside club Tranmere Rovers. Later he toured the cabaret circuit with his quick-quip poetry.

However, he found real fame acting as Lister in the TV series Red Dwarf, starting in 1988. Very quickly he was thrust into the limelight, an experience he admits bewildered him.

“I was famous when I was young. There was no preparation, no fame school where I came from,” he once said. “You’re not taught how to handle it, this sudden influx of wealth and fame. And I handled it all very badly. I was unreliable. I was cocky. I was always late. I didn’t prepare things. I used to wing it a lot.”

By this stage, he was playing loveable cabbie Lloyd Mullaney in Coronation Street. But after his brother’s death, he re-evaluated his priorities in life.

“I decided to leave Corrie because I thought, ‘If I pop my clogs now would I be happy with what I’ve achieved?’ And the answer came back as a ‘No’.”

After that, he did a second stint at Red Dwarf, as well as The Gadget Show, Moneybags and his BBC 6 music show. “All these adventures would not have happened if I’d stayed in Coronation Street,” he concedes.

While Craig is a huge music fan and can often be seen up on stage dancing at one of his many DJ gigs, he’s no spring chicken, as a recent knee injury proves.

“It’s a disco injury and I suffered it when I jumped off a monitor at the Brixton disco festival three weeks ago,” he reveals. “I’m waiting for a cartilage operation.”

Craig told his kids – son Jack and two daughters Anna-Jo and Nellie – about his stunt and they had some advice for their father: “Dad, you need a word with yourself!’” they told him.

Nonetheless, he’s determined not to let a dodgy knee slow down his DJ-ing career.

Alongside his daily 6 Music afternoon radio show, he plans to continue with his Craig Charles Funk & Soul club gigs.

“They are full every weekend,” he enthuses. “Recently we played at The Limelight in Belfast and the Electric in Brixton and it was a sell-out. We sold 3,500 tickets. We had that place rocking and the crowd were really up for it.”

Craig first started out on 6 Music in 2002, with his Funk and Soul show, promoting both old and new tunes. It proved so popular that he was invited to create shows for the BBC’s more mainstream audience on Radio 2.

But after all these years, does he prefer radio or TV?

“Well, on the radio you don’t have to brush your hair,” he quips. “But I really enjoy both. They have their ups and downs though.”

His game show Moneybags, for example, won a broadcast award and was nominated for a BAFTA before being cancelled.

“I don’t think Channel 4 can afford it,” he says. “I think they ran out of money.”

More recently he won an award for his 6 music afternoon show.

“I’ve been on the radio for 30 years and it was my first nomination,” he says. “It took them a while to spot my genius. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

  • Craig was interviewed at the Audio and Radio Industry Awards (ARIAS) where he won an award for his BBC Radio 6 music afternoon show.

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