The Friends of Blackpool Grand unveil a tribute to Sir Ken Dodd OBE
The Friends of Blackpool Grand Theatre unveiled a tattyfilarious tribute to the Master of Mirth and comedy legend, Sir Ken Dodd OBE, today (Friday 22 July).
The Friends of The Grand commissioned a special bronze sculpture from renowned artist Graham Ibbeson to commemorate their famous founding member, which will be housed in pride of place in the theatre’s Dress Circle for all to enjoy.
‘The People’s Sculptor’ Graham Ibbeson undertook the precious project throughout 2020-21 during the national lockdown and his famed previous works include celebrations of comedy greats Les Dawson, Morecambe & Wise and Laurel & Hardy. This spectacular sculpture of Professor Chucklebutty features Ken’s famous Tickling Stick along with Dicky Mint – one of his most beloved Diddymen, who hail from the jam butty mines of Knotty Ash!
Friends of The Grand Chairman, John Grady, said of the commission: “Sir Ken was a very important founding member of The Friends and an invaluable supporter of The Grand Theatre, offering his time and talent on numerous occasions to help raise the funds to save the theatre from demolition, back in the 1970s. Every year since the theatre re-opened, he performed on our stage spreading joy and laughter and we wanted to officially recognise his incredible contribution to The Grand and the world of theatre as a whole.”
Sculptor Graham Ibbeson added: “To me, Ken Dodd was an absolute legend, and the last of the great comedians of an era that made the transition from music hall to variety theatre and on to television. He was in his element on a stage. He loved live audiences, and those audiences loved him back. He gave me the honour of unveiling my Laurel & Hardy Sculpture (Ulverston) in 2009 and told the audience that I was ‘eyeing him up for my next sculpture’, which brought a roar of laughter from the crowd. It wasn’t the next sculpture, but I was truly honoured to be asked to sculpt one of my absolute heroes in 2020, I just hope I did you justice Sir Ken!”
Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born on 8 November 1927 in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, the son of a coal merchant. He began his lifelong career as an entertainer in the 1950s and was known for his eccentric and lengthy performances and incredible repertoire of one-liners. Ken regularly appeared on The Grand’s famous stage with his inimitable one-man show year on year, until his very last live appearances in October 2017, meeting and talking to fans before and after every show, signing autographs and sharing memories into the early hours of the morning.
Sir Ken Dodd received a knighthood from Prince William at the age of 89 for his charity work and his outstanding career in entertainment lasting more than six decades. The investiture came 25 years after he was first awarded an OBE for services to show business and charity. Dressed in a morning suit and top hat the much-loved comedian told press before he entered Buckingham Palace that he felt like ‘a racehorse in the stalls, just sweating a little – apprehensive but highly tickled’. He passed away at his home in Knotty Ash in March 2018 aged 90 years old with his beloved wife Lady Anne Dodd by his side.
Lady Dodd said of the new sculpture: “I am truly honoured that the Friends of the Grand want to commemorate Ken in this way and I felt very privileged to be invited to Graham’s studio, along with members of the Friends Committee, to see this wonderful sculpture evolve throughout the creative process. Graham is a brilliant artist and my only input was to ‘tickle up’ Ken’s hair a bit! I am thrilled to bits that Ken will now be back at The Grand – a place I know he loved to be.”
Blackpool Grand Theatre Chief Executive, Adam Knight, added: “Sir Ken was incredibly special, not only to the Friends of The Grand, but also to the people of Blackpool. It was wonderful to see so many representatives from across the town and from across the world of entertainment at the theatre today in celebration of this legendary performer. I know many of our theatre patrons will very much enjoy seeing Ken along with Dicky Mint in our Dress Circle every time they come to one our productions and remember the joy he brought to our audiences.”
Ken Dodd was beloved by fellow performers and theatre critics alike, as many testimonies to his comic genius confirm:
Mick Miller – “Ken Dodd was a Comedy Master. When young comedians used to ask me for advice, I always told them to go and watch Ken live as it would be the best seven hours of their lives!”
Jimmy Tarbuck – “the greatest stage comic the country has ever seen”
Michael Coveney – The Stage: “Ken Dodd was the greatest live performer I ever saw on stage anywhere.”
Michael Billington – The Guardian: “I’ve been lucky enough in my lifetime to see two performers kissed with genius. One was Laurence Olivier who could enthral an audience with his animalistic power and interpretative originality. The other is Ken Dodd who had the capacity to take a roomful of strangers and, through a fusillade of verbal and visual gags that never let up, induce in them a spirit of collective ecstasy.”
10 facts you might not know about Sir Ken Dodd OBE:
1. Dodd’s memorable buck teeth came as a result of a dare; his schoolmates challenged him to ride a bicycle with his eyes closed.
2. Ken’s father was a coal merchant in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash and Ken left school at 14 to help his dad with deliveries.
3. Ken performed his first show at the age of ten in an orphanage ‘because the poor little beggars couldn’t get away’.
4. He as a member of the Grand Order of Water Rats – the exclusive British entertainment industry fraternity and charitable organisation.
5. As well as having a successful career in comedy, Dodd also had several number ones – his recording of Tears was the highest-selling single in 1965.
6. He earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest ever joke-telling session: 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours, undertaken at a Liverpool theatre in the 1960s.
7. He was offered a job as a cub reporter on the Daily Express, but he turned it down to stay in the family business.
8.He had a pet poodle called Rufus.
9. His recipe for the perfect jam butty was to decrust two slices of bread then dip in in a beaten mixture of egg and milk in a shallow dish, before frying in butter or margarine. Make a sandwich with a tablespoon of jam, then also top with more jam and hand-whipped double cream.
10.Ken Dodd died in the same home that he was born in.