Not a native Mancunian, he was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
where he had written for the Newcastle Evening Chronicle
after leaving Cambridge University, but, on coming to Manchester
in search of a job at the Manchester Guardian newspaper
in April 1954, he was so taken with the city that he stayed,
and became firmly associated with Manchester for the rest of
his life. A
respected journalist and broadcaster, he eventually rose to
be Northern Editor of the Guardian from 1965-69. From
1969 until 1975 he was Editor of the Manchester Evening News.
great lover and promoter of the city of Manchester, and of the
wider north-west region, he was better known outside the city
for his radio voice, on such news magazine programmes as “Today”
on BBC Radio 4, which he co-presented from 1975 until his death
epitaph was, in some ways, his final publication in 1993 – a
large format book of photographs of the city and people of Manchester,
entitled “Manchester – A Celebration”.
Bakewell CBE (Baroness Bakewell)
A notable broadcaster from the region, Joan Bakewell was born
in Stockport, lived for many years in Cheadle, and attended
Stockport High School. Later, at Cambridge University she joined
the University Labour Club, under the presidency of fellow Mancunian,
Brian Redhead (see above). Described once as “the thinking man’s
crumpet”, her penetrative, humane and sympathetic interviewing
of often difficult subjects pushed her to the fore in television
series like the BBC’s “Heart of the Matter” , from 1987
to 2000, in its time a new form of interview documentary genre.
The series won several awards, including The Richard Dimbleby
BAFTA Award for Television Journalism and the BMA Charles Fletcher
Award. Breaking often provocative and controversial ground,
she interviewed Moors murderer, Myra Hindley, as well as the
wife of the serial killer, Fred West.
She has also
written and presented two series for BBC2 Television, “My
Generation” and “Taboo” , and she currently
presents “Something Understood” for BBC Radio
4 and “Belief” for BBC Radio 3. She has written
four plays for radio and three books and regularly contributes
to newspapers and magazines. Her autobiography, “The
Centre of the Bed” , was published in October 2003.
Joan was Chairman of the British Film Institute from 2000 to
2002 and she was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE)
in 1999. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the
British Empire (DBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours and in November
2008 she was appointed a voice for older people by the UK Government.
She is Chair ans Trustee of the Renowned Theatre Company Shared
Experience. On 25 January 2011 she was formally introduced to
the House of Lords as Baroness Bakewell, supported by fellow
Labour peers, Lord Puttnam and Baroness Kennedy. She is also
an honorary graduate at the University of Essex, is
a grandmother, and now lives in north London.
Born in a cobbled street in Collyhurst, Manchester on February
2nd 1934, Les Dawson was a well loved and popular national television
comedian, wit and show host, known for his sardonic and doleful
style and countenance. He would be variously described by his
peers after his death as ‘the last of the clowns’, and having
‘a face of granite, a heart of gold’. He attended Cheetham Senior
School, and began his semi-professional career in 1947, along
with Bernard Manning.
They first performed at Lee Road Social Club in Harpurhey, where
Dawson was immediately popular, as he came to be in the working
mens’ club circuits of the north-west. In the meantime he had
various jobs: he sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door in Moss Side
for a time, and worked at, (and was sacked from) the Co-op,
during which time he also studied on an engineering course at
Openshaw Technical College.
many years he was ‘discovered’ by television on Hughie Green’s
“Opportunity Knocks” show in 1967. He later began to
appear in the 1960s showcase series “The Comedians” where
his popularity increased.
married his first wife, Meg in 1960, who died of cancer in 1986,
causing deep depressions in Dawson, as well as a worsening problem
with alcohol consumption. Several television shows came his
way : “Blankety Blank” , a game show which he hosted tongue
in cheek, and his own comedy show “Sez Les” where he
formed a friendship and working routine with Roy Baraclough
(the latter appeared in “Coronation Street” as Alex Gilroy).
had early literary aspirations, and published several books,
including “A Time Before Genesis”. He was also a great
comic pianist. He died of a heart attack on 11th June 1993 at
his home in Lytham at the age of 59.
statue in commemoration of Les Dawson has been erected in Lytham
St Annes, his final home, though there are those who think it
should more appropriately located in the less affluent district
of Collyhurst, in inner city Manchester, where he was born.
Born in in Mesnes Road, Wigan in 1934, this short, pudgy cheeked
and funny character successfully made the move up from television
comic and bit part actor into the Hollywood movie. Roy Kinnear
earned a place for himself in British television in the 1960s,
first appearing in the BBC’s satirical show “That Was The Week
That Was” (known as “TW3”) with the likes of Ned Sherrin, Ronnie
Barker, John Cleese and David Frost.
Kinnear had prematurely ended his education in Edinburgh at
the age of 17 go into RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts),
and thereafter he had to postpone an acting career in 1951 to
complete his National Service in Her Majesty’s Forces. On completion
he appeared in several radio and television shows in Scotland,
before making his film debut, when he appeared for a few minutes
as a bus conductor in the film “Tiara Tahiti” . Other films
in which he appeared include “Sparrows Can’t Sing” (1963), “The
Hill” (1965), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971),
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1972), “The Three Musketeers”
(1973), “Juggernaut” (1974), and “The Adventures of Sherlock
Holmes’ Smarter Brother” (1975).
He died on the 20 Sept 1988 in Madrid, Spain, as a result of
an accident while filming a chase scene on horseback during
the making of the film “The Return of the Musketeers” .
An Oldham man, born in 1923, the son of a cotton mill labourer.
Sykes has great comedic wit, and apart from being a comedian
in his own right, is a prodigious script and gag writer for
other comics. He is best known by the British public for his
TV series in which he partnered Hattie Jacques (known better
abroad for her acting parts in “Carry On” films) – a collaboration
which ended when Hattie died in 1980.
Sykes had early ambitions to be a comedian, which were thwarted
by war service, though it provided him the opportunity to meet
other aspiring comedians like Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan and
Harry Secombe. He wrote scripts for all of these, and for such
post-war shows as “Stars in Battledress” . He joined the BBC
as a scriptwriter in the early 1950s and wrote for shows like
“Variety Bandbox”, “Educating Archie” , and from 1950 for his
own show “Sykes” , which he successfully transferred to the
television screen from 1973, and which ran until 1979. He wrote
and directed several short wordless comedies for television,
and collaborated with Johnny Speight (creator of Alf Garnet)
in writing the controversial “Curry & Chips” in 1969.
Other Sykes’ creations included “The Plank” and “Rhubarb” .
He also played comic character roles in several films, including
“Very Important Person”, “Contact 99”, “Those Magnificent Men
in Their Flying Machines” , and in “Monte Carlo or Bust” in
which he struck up a working partnership with the late Terry
In December 2004 Sykes was awarded a CBE for services to drama.
He was an honorary president of the Goon Show Preservation Society.
Eric Sykes died on 4 July 2012, aged 89, at his home in Esher,
Surrey, England, after a short illness.
Born Eric Bartholomew at Morecambe in 1926, and having taken
the stage surname after his birthplace, Eric Morecambe, (with
his close partner Ernie Wise), became half of Britain’s most
popular comedy duo during the 1960s and 1970s. Both Morecambe
and Wise were child entertainers.
The early days saw Morecambe entering local talent shows and
performing in working mens’ clubs as a standup comedian. Wise
had already made his London stage debut in a 1939 production
of “Bandwaggon” and they met when Morecambe’s show “Youth Takes
a Bow” was touring the country. They struck up an immediate
affinity and formed a double act. However, almost immediately
the outbreak of World War Two intervened, and Wise went off
to serve in the Merchant Navy, while Morecambe went down the
coal mines as a Bevin Boy. In 1946 the two were reunited, and
performed in many variety shows on stage and radio in the 1950s.
From 1954 they appeared increasingly on television shows, and
in 1955 they were given their own “Morecambe and Wise Show”
by the BBC.
These shows were highly successful and ran throughout the 1960s
and early 1970s, achieving top billing and television viewer
ratings for practically the whole of that time. Their shows,
and the annual Christmas Special shows which they created, utilised
the script writing skills of Dick Hills and Sid Green, themselves
authors of many other successful television shows. Top world
class celebrities would appear on their shows, and were happily
humiliated and belittled – guests included such people as the
composer and conductor Andr� Previn, actors and actresses like
Peter Cushing, Glenda Jackson, Penelope Keith, Diana Rigg, and
Christopher Lee, singers like Shirley Bassey and Des O’Connor,
as well as the newscaster Angela Rippon. Morecambe and Wise
appeared in three films : “The Intelligence Men”, “The Magnificent
Two” and “Night Train to Murder” , which were box office flops
– their style failed to translate into the movie genre, and
they remained essentially stand-up comics relying on the rapport
which only comes from a live audience.
Eric Morecambe died of a heart attack in 1984 after several
earlier attacks, and his death provoked virtual national mourning.
He was recognised as a leading comic by all of the other comedians
in Britain, and his work has proved inspirational to many younger
comedians who have followed since his day.
A statue to Eric Morecambe has been erected on the promenade
in Morecambe, his birthplace.
The “Little & Large Show” was a top-billing television
show of the 1980s – it featured Eddie Large and Syd Little.
A one-time comic legend, Eddie Large, was born Edward McGinnis
in 1941 in Glasgow, but his family moved to live in a red brick
terraced house opposite the Maine Road Stadium of Manchester
City Football Club when he was just 10 years old. He came to
regard Manchester as his “home town”.
attended Claremont Road Primary School nearby. His double act,
as Little & Large, with his comedy partner Syd Little was always
Manchester-based, and became a household name during their heyday
in the late 1980s when their comedy shows were the most highly
rated on BBC Television. The ‘Little & Large’ duo began in 1963
when they met at Stonemason’s Arms pub in Wythenshawe. Little
had a one man show at that time, singing to the electric guitar.
During his performance Eddie began heckling in a comic manner,
saying he could do better himself. Syd called his bluff and
invited him to join him on stage, where the two went on to receive
rapturous applause from the audience for their unscripted impromptu
formula was retained and Little & Large was born. They began
to appear in many local Manchester clubs, including three shows
at Bernard Manning’s Embassy Club in Harpurhey, where they shared
billing with another as yet unknown comedy act, Cannon & Ball.
Television fame came when they appeared on and won in the television
show “Opportunity Knocks” in 1971, which was quickly
followed by many spot appearances on other television shows.
In 1977, Thames Television offered them their own series.
same year they attracted full-house audiences appearing live
at Blackpool, with a record breaking season. In November of
that same year they were invited to appear live in the Royal
Variety Show. Their professional television career ran from
1977 to 1991, when their show was dropped by the BBC. Since
then they have pursed their careers in live shows and club appearances.
Large currently lives in Bristol, but as an avid fan of Manchester
City he regularly drives down to watch them play football at
Maine Road. He is also a keen golfer. Throughout their career,
Little & Large continued to use the original format which they
had discovered in a pub in Wythenshawe, and their hall mark
was slapstick humour, with Syd still trying vainly to play the
guitar and Eddie constantly heckling and berating him. It was,
Eddie admits, reminiscent of the Morecambe & Wise style, (who
were their main influence), though they never quite achieved
the pre-eminence of their heroes.
Frank Finlay CBE
Born in Farnworth, Bolton in 1926, Frank Finlay is a respected
actor of international repute who has appeared in numerous television
dramas and films. He left school at the age of 14 and did a
variety of fill-in jobs while maintaining an interest in and
an ambition to be part of the theatrical profession.
He worked for a while in local amateur dramatic productions
before making his professional debut in Scotland in 1951. He
attended RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and went
on to join the Guildford Repertory Company. Later he achieved
critical successes in several Arnold Wesker plays at the Royal
Court Theatre in London. His film breakthrough came in 1962
when he played in “The Longest Day” . This was followed by a
supporting role as Iago to Sir Lawrence Olivier’s “Othello”
in a film adaptation. In 1970 he formed a film company of his
own, working with director Alan Bridge.
He also achieved good revues for his leading role in the London
Weekend Television Company’s controversial and dramatic mini-series
“Bouquet of Barbed Wire” in 1978. Other of his films include
“Robbery” (1967), “Twisted Nerve” (1968), “The Molly Maguires”
(1970), “Sitting Target” (1972), “The Three Musketeers” (1973),
and the sequel “The Four Musketeers” in 1975, and in Roman Polanski’s
film “The Pianist” in 2002. He was made a Commander
of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1984 New Years Honours
List, and was presented with his CBE by the Queen in February
In 2007 he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio adventure “100”
and in November 2008 he appeared in the eleventh episode of
the BBC drama series “Merlin” , as Anhora; Keeper
of the Unicorns. He was granted an Honorary Doctorate from the
University of Bolton July 2010.
Steve Coogan was born into a large Irish family in Middleton,
Manchester on 14th October 1965, one of six children. As a youngster,
he began doing impersonations of his school teachers as entertainment
for the family, and discovered a natural comedic talent. He
therefore enrolled in Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre
to study dramatic arts, and gained a professionalism through
regular appearances on the local standup comedy circuits around
Manchester. Here he was spotted by a talent scout, and appeared
as an impressionist on television shows like “First Exposure”,
“A Word in Your Era” and “Paramount City”. As
well, as acting and performing live standup comedy, Coogan developed
a considerable writing talent. During the early 1990s he had
spent much of his time in relative obscurity working at Radio
Norwich on a little known show entitled “I’m Alan Partridge”.
had also provided many voices for the “Spitting Image”
TV show in the 1980s. Later, he was able to develop the Alan
Partridge character in a spoof chat show entitled “Knowing
Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge” , a show that transferred
well to television, and that endeared him to a wider audience
and brought him critical acclaim. The Alan Partridge character
is probably his best known creation to UK audiences, but other
characters have followed, including Tony Ferrino (the self confessed
“singing sensation”), Gareth Cheeseman (travelling
salesman), Paul and Pauline Calf.
1992 he was presented with the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh
Festival and in 1999 he was named the “Variety Club Showbusiness
Personality of the Year”. He is variously described as
a “comedic genius” and as the “new Peter Sellers”
Presently, he lives in London and Brighton, is an avid supported
of Manchester City Football Club. He is divorced and has one
young daughter. His first film, “The Parole Officer”
(2001) is an attempt to break into the major movie world; Coogan
stars and co-wrote the scripts for this film, which is, incidentally,
set in Manchester. In March 2002 the film “Twenty-Four
Hour Party People” was released, and in 2008 he appeared
in the comedy film “Tropical Thunder” .
Anna Louise Friel was born in Rochdale on 12 July 1976. As a
schoolgirl she had planned a career in Law, and was a high academic
achiever, and going on to study for her ‘A’ levels at a local
college. She was, however, being increasingly drawn towards
acting, and in the event, she never did complete her A-Level
Course. Instead she was offered a succession of minor television
roles including in 1991, “GBH” a Channel 4 serialised dramatisation
by Alan Bleasdale. In 1993 she appeared in ITV’s “Medics”, and
in the BBC’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s
Dream” in 1995.
But the role which brought her to public attention was that
of Beth Jordache in Channel 4’s popular soap opera “Brookside”
, a role which was to ensure her career as a successful actress.
Her strength and conviction in acting and her innate good looks
recommended her to audiences of all ages and genders. Her convincing
and sympathetic portrayal as an on-screen lesbian in “Brookside”
made her into a national lesbian icon.
Determined, however, not to become typecast, she left the security
and regular pay cheque that “Brookside” offered, to
launch out into a freelance acting career with all of its uncertainty.
Her reputation continued to grow as she appeared in the theatre,
in film and television. Television roles included in 1996, “Cadfael”
for ITV and “You Drive Me” for Channel 4; In 1997 she appeared
in Sky Television’s “Tales From the Crypt” ; and for BBC Television
in 1998 in “Our Mutual Friend” , in 1999 “All for Love” and
in 2001 “The Stringer” .
Anna lived for a time in London – where the work was to be found,
but in 2000 she moved to a new home in Windsor where she lives
with her partner David Thewlis.