I grew up watching Sooty and he’s still going strong today. Even though this small yellow male bear with black ears is mute he’s been entertaining children from 1955 and is in the Guinness World Records for being the feature of the longest-running continuing children's programme in the UK (over 850 episodes.) Here I am on the North Pier at Blackpool where he was discovered.
He was found by 1948 by former electrician Harry Corbett. He was on holiday in Blackpool (his uncle was Harry Ramsden, the fish-and-chip king) and bought the glove puppet to entertain his son Matthew. It was in a novelty shop on the North Pier, cost seven shillings and six pence (37½p in today’s money) and was called Teddy. He first appeared on local talent television show in 1952, his ears and nose covered with 'soot' so that he would show up better on black and white television. For twenty years the kind but naughty Sooty provided his owner Harry with a good living by playing a toy glockenspiel, doing magic (under the wave of a wand), squirting shaving foam or paint and firing water from a pistol.
Harry retired in 1976 and passed on the lucrative bit of fur to his son Matthew. Sooty performed for another twenty years. There were three spin-off Series (Learn With Sooty, Sooty’s Amazing Adventures and Sooty’s Magic), stage shows across the country, yearly annual books and an album (Sooty : The Movie is due out soon, too.) He was sold in 1996 to Global Rights Development Fund for £1.4 million….yes £1,400,000!
Matthew Corbett retired in December 1998 and Sooty was passed to Richard Cadell, a lifelong Sooty enthusiast. Richard isn’t a geek puppeteer but a television presenter, writer, producer and magician (worth about £8 million from previously owning Brean Leisure Park in Somerset.) He bought the licensing rights for the Sooty brand and tours with Sooty and makes television shows up to the present.
I was parked in the motorhome north of the tower near the big hotels and even though it was a chilly Sunday afternoon I fancied a stroll down to the north pier to see the blue plaque. Crowds were few as there was a mighty wind coming in off the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a mild magic in a holiday town out of season for some reason. I had an audio book playing and a head full of day dreams and enjoyed it. The plaque is on the left as you walk onto the pier but I had a stroll to the end of the pier to ensure I passed the point where the original Sooty had been bought in 1948. Who would have thought a scrap of fur bought for 37.5p pence on the pier where I’m stood become a mini phenomenon? Blimey.
At the entrance to the pier is a pub and a German group were banging out a few Bavarian tunes in. They were so odd and punchy I bought a diet Coke and sat and watched for a bit. Not sure what Sooty would make of men in Lederhosen though.
A documentary about Sooty is here...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGbWpzAhRSQ
The Sooty website is here...https://www.thesootyshow.co.uk/
Passing the war memorial…
Sooty was discovered on the pier somewhere…