(1929-1994) 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. A 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 in 1993. His 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”.
Joan Bakewell CBE (Baroness Bakewell)
(b.1933) 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.
(1934-1993) 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. After 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. He 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). Dawson 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. A 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.
(1934-1988) 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” .
(1923-2012) 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 Thomas. 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.
(1926-1984) 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.
(b.1941) 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”. He 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 performance. The 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. That 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. Eddie 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
(b. 1926) 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 1984. 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.
(b. 1965) 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”. He 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. In 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” .
(b. 1976) 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.