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grand theatre

‘I enjoyed that Cocker!’ The first time I met Bobby Ball 150 150 mhamer

‘I enjoyed that Cocker!’ The first time I met Bobby Ball

Jimmy Cricket's Lancashire Post column about the late Bobby Ball

Jimmy Cricket remembers the late, great Bobby Ball in his newspaper column for November.

Bobby, one half of the famous comedy double act Cannon and Ball, died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in October aged 76.

The Oldham-born actor and comedian had tested positive for Covid-19.

Bobby had also starred in several popular sitcoms.

They included Not Going Out, Last of the Summer Wine and Benidorm.

In his latest column in the Lancashire Post, Jimmy recalls his first meeting with Bobby and Tommy.

He says: “I first met Bobby Ball at the Candlelight Club in Oldham.

“I had just come off stage and my friend, the singer Jonathan Young, told me that he and his partner Tommy were standing at the bar.

“And they seemed to be enjoying my act.

“Although at that time they had not broken into television, they were a very popular act in the clubs around the country.

‘Brothers in showbusiness’

“I was keen to meet up with them, so I changed quickly and headed for the bar.

“Tommy at the time was engrossed in a conversation with someone, but Bobby Ball shook my hand warmly.

“He said to me: ‘I enjoyed that Cocker, they were a tough crowd, but you got them in the end.

“‘I loved the visual stuff that you did.'”

Jimmy also recalled: “When I found out later Bobby was a neighbour of mine in Rochdale, I rang to tell him that I had written a sketch for him and Tommy in which they played two First Aid Men.

“He invited me to his home where I met his lovely wife Yvonne.

“During our conversation he told me something that really resonated with me.

“He said to me: ‘Jimmy as you develop your on-stage character you’ll die less and less.’

”It was an incredibly insightful thing to say and I treasured the fact that he’d passed his keen knowledge of comedy on to a fellow pro.”

Jimmy finishes his column by saying: “A few months ago before it was offered funding, I tweeted about the Grand Theatre in Blackpool’s future being in doubt.

“Bobby retweeted the message.

“We were brothers in showbusiness trying to save a beautiful theatre for future generations.

“He will be sadly missed by all his friends in the entertainment industry as well as his many fans.”

‘Wonderful news’ about Blackpool’s Grand Theatre! 150 150 mhamer

‘Wonderful news’ about Blackpool’s Grand Theatre!

Wonderful news to start the week! Grand Theatre Successful COVID-19 Recovery Grant - Blackpool Grand Theatre

Jimmy Cricket has welcomed the news that the Blackpool Grand Theatre is to get a government recovery grant.

It was suggested in August the theatre could close because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Management had warned the venue might have to shut unless the UK government intervened.

Like other provincial theatres, which depend largely on box office receipts to keep going, it has not received any income since the lockdown began.

Popular comedian Jimmy said at the time that the closure of the iconic theatre would be a “tragedy”.

But the theatre, which first opened in 1894, has succeeded in its application for £483,666 to the government’s COVID-19 Recovery Grant Scheme.

Jimmy described it on social media as “wonderful news”.

‘Absolute lifeline’

The grant aims to support the theatre while it is unable to open with consistently financially viable productions.

The theatre’s website said it would pay to keep a small staff team in place to look after the building and its business until 31 March 2021. 

It will also underwrite the cost of unavoidable job losses and preparations to reopen with covid-secure provisions in place.

Additionally, it would help to rebuild the theatre’s reserves and enable it to return to full operation when possible.

Tony Stone, chairman of the charity which operates the Grand, said: “We are beyond grateful to be awarded this grant by the Government.

“It is an absolute lifeline. Since March we have been unable to earn any income as shows have cancelled or postponed.

“This additional grant makes the difference between permanent closure and the potential to return when it is safe and viable to do so.”

‘Fantastic grant’

John Grady, chairman of the Friends of the Grand, said: “In normal times we stuff envelopes, tear tickets and sell coffee to thousands of loyal customers.

“Since March we have been unable to support our favourite theatre as it has been unable to open.

“We realise that we still don’t know when this will be possible.

“But this fantastic grant will, at least, mean that we can prepare to return when circumstances allow.”

Ruth Eastwood, the theatre’s chief executive, welcomed the news “with very mixed feelings”.

‘Tremendous support’

She said the entire team were at risk of redundancy and in consultation about reduced terms and conditions of employment.

“With no work and no place of work available to our 57-strong team and the Furlough scheme ending, we have no choice but to reduce the headcount at the theatre,” she explained.

“This is to ensure we can slow down the speed with which cash is flowing out of our reserves.

“I’d like to thank my dedicated and hard-working team, plus board members and volunteers, for their tremendous support and forbearance at this difficult time.”

Also read: Losing the Grand Theatre in Blackpool would be a ‘tragedy’

Losing the Grand Theatre in Blackpool would be a ‘tragedy’ 150 150 mhamer

Losing the Grand Theatre in Blackpool would be a ‘tragedy’

Jimmy Cricket says the closure of the iconic Grand Theatre in Blackpool would be a "tragedy" for future generationsJimmy Cricket says the closure of the iconic Grand Theatre in Blackpool would be a “tragedy” for future generations.

The theatre, which was almost demolished in 1972, could be closed because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Management warned it would shut unless the government intervened.

Most of the 57 staff were furloughed during the lockdown.

They could be left redundant when the job-saving scheme ends on 31 October.

A charitable trust has run the theatre since 1972, when local campaigners saved it from the bulldozers.

Among them were entertainers such as Sir Ken Dodd and BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke.

It reopened in March 1981 with a performance of The Merchant of Venice starring Timothy West and Prunella Scales.

Like other provincial theatres which depend largely on box office receipts to keep going, the venue has had no income since the lockdown began.

All tickets were refunded for cancelled shows and plays.

We must all get together

The theatre, which first opened in 1894, had applied for a £500,000 government grant to keep it going until it might be able to put shows on in January.

However, if social distancing measures were still in place then, it would not make the shows viable and also the money would have run out.

Jimmy said: “We must all get together to save the Grand in Blackpool folks.

“To deprive future generations of this wonderful theatre would be a tragedy.”

His post on Twitter attracted hundreds of likes and retweets as well as some comments.

Also read: Grand Theatre in Blackpool hosts charity concert

External link: Blackpool’s Grand Theatre facing closure amid coronavirus pandemic

Keith Harris: ‘Great showman – we salute you’ 150 150 mhamer

Keith Harris: ‘Great showman – we salute you’

Jimmy Cricket appeared on Keith Harris’s holiday laughter show (with Orville and Cuddles) at the Royal Opera House in the summer of 1982

Jimmy Cricket has been paying tribute in his latest newspaper column to ventriloquist Keith Harris, who died last month.

Keith, who, with his puppet duck Orville, became a regular feature of Saturday night TV in the 1980s, was 67.

He entertained generations of children with his sidekick Orville, a bright green duck who wore a nappy and spoke in a high-pitched voice but couldn’t fly. He also gave life to the popular puppet Cuddles the monkey, whose catchphrase was ‘I hate that duck!’

In addition to fronting The Keith Harris Show on BBC One, he (and Orville) gave private performances at birthday parties for Prince William and his brother Harry, at the request of Diana, Princess of Wales.

His 1982 single, Orville’s Song, was a top five hit, selling more than 400,000 copies.

In his May column for the Preston-based Lancashire Evening News, Jimmy says: “Most ventriloquists that are successful discover one dummy that tickles people’s funny bone, but Keith was blessed with two.

“In 1983, holidaymakers were still visiting our summer resorts en masse and Keith’s show was a sellout from start to finish.

“Keith Harris – you weren’t just a superb ventriloquist, you were a great showman and producer.

“We salute you.”

Jimmy Cricket to appear in Blackpool charity gala 150 150 mhamer

Jimmy Cricket to appear in Blackpool charity gala

Jimmy Cricket is appearing in the charity gala, A Night to Remember, at the Viva venue in BlackpoolEntertainer Jimmy Cricket will be appearing in a huge charity gala at the Viva cabaret venue in Blackpool on May 15.

The line-up for A Night to Remember is a stunning collection of high-quality performers, who have been assembled by the organisers of this fundraising event, Jean Parkes and Sue Coolie.

Jean is a former manager of the Bradford Theatres organisation and now runs an agency in Blackpool called  Personality Artistes.

The proceeds from the event will go towards charities, which are associated with two worthy causes – Parkinson’s disease and leukaemia.

Book your tickets now with the Viva box office on 01253 297297.

Jimmy joins co-stars at showbiz event (slideshow) 150 150 mhamer

Jimmy joins co-stars at showbiz event (slideshow)

Jimmy Cricket joined a host of fellow top entertainers at a showbusiness event in Blackpool.

Encore Reunion was organised by performer Hilary O’Neil, who was one of the stars of the 80s TV show Copy Cats, and was hosted at the Viva cabaret venue in Blackpool.

Jimmy, who attended with his wife, May and son, Fr Frankie, was invited to attend by the event sponsor, Nick Thomas from the Qdos Entertainment Company.

It was a who’s who from the world of entertainment as also there were: Bobby Davro, Paul Chuckle (from the Chuckle Brothers), Ken Dodd, Billy Pearce, Krankies, Christopher Biggins, Russ Abbot, Robin Grumbleweed and Little and Large.

“I was thrilled to have been at this unique event and thought it was a sensational night,” said Jimmy.

“I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with my fellow entertainers, some of whom I had not seen in quite some time.

“It was also superb the event was held in Blackpool – the resort famed for its entertainment offer – as all those who went to the Encore Reunion had at one time or another graced the venues of the town.”

The sponsors produced an event brochure, which highlighted the many shows the performers had produced over the years in the resort.

Jimmy featured in a few of these shows at venues such as the South Pier Theatre (no longer standing as it was demolished at the end of the 90s) and the Grand Theatre (located within the town centre).

Click on either of the arrow buttons above to watch a photo slideshow of the event.

Events that helped make Jimmy famous 150 150 mhamer

Events that helped make Jimmy famous

jimmy_cricket_lookinPhotos and postings published on social media websites have revealed some of the events that made Jimmy Cricket a household name.

The Northern Irish entertainer’s supporters and friends have created a kind of nostalgia corner with their entries on Facebook and Twitter.

Right is a picture of the front cover of the Look in annual dating back to 1988. Look in was a popular weekly magazine aimed at the teenage markets during the 1980s.

Jimmy features primarily because he had a popular television series on ITV at the time and the magazine decided to run a comic strip which featured Jimmy’s character getting into different scrapes!jimmy_cricket_nostalgia

A big thanks to Amy Elizabeth Phillips for posting this on her website at where it features on its dedicated Facebook page.

Back in 1987, Jimmy headlined a show at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool which was a trailblazer at the time as it started a trend of extending theatre-based entertainment attractions into the autumnal illuminations season (poster left, is also from the Variety Emporium website).

Supporting Jimmy on the show was none other than Brian Conley,  the English comedian, television presenter, singer and actor who at the peak of his television career was believed to be the highest-paid male television personality in the UK.

Alongside both Jimmy and Brian was a double act called Trevillion & Nine – the female half of which was Sadie Nice who is now a successful broadcaster on BBC Essex.

The other member of the double act, Paul Trevillion, went on to use his artistic talents to the full, producing cartoons for a range of sporting occasions and sporting publications.