Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand with Lady Dodd

Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand Theatre

The Friends of The Grand are tickled to be able to unveil a brand new Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand Theatre. It’s a fitting tribute to Sir Ken Dodd OBE.

New Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand Theatre

The Friends of Blackpool Grand Theatre unveiled the tattyfilarious tribute to the Master of Mirth and comedy legend on Friday 22 July 2022.

It’s a specially commissioned bronze bust of Sir Ken, from ‘The People’s Sculptor’ Graham Ibbeson. Housed in pride of place in the theatre Dress Circle, it’s for all to enjoy and remember their famous founding member.

Ken Dodd Sculpture on display in the Dress Circle at The Grand Theatre
Ken Dodd Sculpture on display in the Dress Circle at The Grand Theatre

Graham took on the precious project throughout 2020-21 during the national lockdown. His famed previous works include celebrations of comedy greats Les Dawson (St Annes), Morecambe & Wise (Blackpool Winter Gardens) and Laurel & Hardy (Ulverston). This spectacular sculpture of Professor Chucklebutty features Ken’s famous Tickling Stick along with Dicky Mint. He was one of his most beloved Diddymen, who hail from the jam butty mines of Knotty Ash!

Sir Ken Dodd – a famous founding Friend

John Grady is Friends of The Grand Chairman. He said of the commission: “Sir Ken was a very important founding member of The Friends and an invaluable supporter of The Grand Theatre. He offered his time and talent on numerous occasions to help raise the funds needed 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. 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. 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. Ken gave me the honour of unveiling my Laurel & Hardy Sculpture (Ulverston) in 2009. Then 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!

More about Ken Dodd

Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born on 8 November 1927 in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, the son of a coal merchant.

His lifelong career as an entertainer began 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. The very last live appearances were in October 2017. He met and talked 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. It was presented 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 spoke to the press before he entered Buckingham Palace. Saying 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 on 11 March 2018 aged 90 years old with his beloved wife Lady Anne Dodd by his side.

I’m truly honoured that the Friends of the Grand want to commemorate Ken in this way. 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. My only input was to ‘tickle up’ Ken’s hair a bit! I’m thrilled to bits that Ken will now be back at The Grand – a place I know he loved to be.”

Lady Dodd

Revealing the new Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand

Adam Knight is Blackpool Grand Theatre Chief Executive. He 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 the world of entertainment at the theatre in celebration of this legendary performer. I know many of our patrons will very much enjoy seeing Ken along with Dicky Mint in our Dress Circle. Each time they come to a production they’ll remember the joy he brought to our audiences.”

Ken Dodd Sculpture with (l-r) Adam Knight, John Grady and Lady Dodd
Ken Dodd Sculpture with (l-r) Adam Knight, John Grady and Lady Dodd

Ken Dodd was beloved by fellow performers and theatre critics alike.

Mick Miller said “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!”

Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand with (l-r) Mick Miller, Ricky Tomlinson, Lady Dodd and Roy Walker
Ken Dodd Sculpture at Blackpool Grand with (l-r) Mick Miller, Ricky Tomlinson, Lady Dodd and Roy Walker

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. 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 was 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. He had a recipe for the perfect jam butty. Decrust two slices of bread then dip in in a beaten mixture of egg and milk in a shallow dish, then fry in butter or margarine. Make a sandwich with a tablespoon of jam. Top with more jam and hand-whipped double cream.

10.Ken Dodd died in the same home that he was born in.

More about Graham Ibbeson

Graham Ibbeson (known as the ‘The People’s Sculptor’) was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. He’s been a professional sculptor since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1978. He has developed an international reputation exhibiting in Galleries throughout Europe, the USA, and Asia. Through his commissions and public work (over 30 public sculptures), Ibbeson has helped regenerate whole areas of cities and towns across the UK. Graham’s Laurel & Hardy (unveiled in Ulverston, Cumbria in April 2009) has already increased visitor numbers by 50% in less than a year according to the Ulverston tourism office. His Eric Morecambe (unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen in 1999) helped to reshape the resort of Morecambe. It’s brought in tens of millions of pounds through extra visitor numbers. Around a million pounds in extra car parking revenue was recorded within the first year.

Ibbeson’s ability to capture the essence of a character with warmth and humanity sets him apart from many other sculptors. He brings an element of understanding to his portraiture that’s deeper than just a likeness. His sculptures have soul. He gives us a unique glimpse into the characters of our peers and idols through his remarkable work. He’ll have a lasting legacy as the People’s Sculptor. Brian Elliott (Author).

More about The Friends of The Grand

The group was formed in 1973 to save Blackpool’s Grand Theatre from demolition. They’re an independent organisation which provides financial and voluntary support to the theatre. Early Friends included such names as Violet Carson (Ena Sharples), Alistair Cooke, Leslie Crowther, Tim West and Prunella Scales. Billy Pearce, Johnnie Casson and founding member Sir Ken Dodd OBE.

Over the last 25 years, The Friends have contributed in excess of one million pounds towards projects. Including the provision of new carpets, seating and technical equipment.

There’s more information here, and how to become a Friend of The Grand member

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