Norwich remembers Norman Wisdom

PETER WALSH reports on why Norman Wisdom will always have a special place in the hearts of Norwich people.

Comedy legend Sir Norman Wisdom spent almost 60 years entertaining people at home and abroad with his bumbling brand of slapstick humour that he once said appealed to children aged from three to 93.

The slapstick star, best remembered for his clowning role as flat cap wearing Norman Pitkin and catchphrase 'Mr Grimsdale!', died peacefully in his sleep at the Abbotswood nursing home on the Isle of Man on Monday. But while he was a hit all over the world, nowhere more so than Albania, it was in Norwich that he brought down the curtain on his glorious stage career.

Back in October 2004 Sir Norman entertained a theatre audience for the final time as he played to a full house at the Theatre Royal just a few days after his announcement that he was to quit the showbiz when he reached 90 in February 2005.

The comedy stalwart, who was knighted in 2000, received a two-minute ovation as he made his first appearance of the Variety Show which also featured singer Jess Conrad.

The historic show might have been six years ago, but it will never be forgotten by those fans from the county lucky enough to be able to say that they were there then.

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Peter Wilson, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: 'I think it made a big impact on theatre goers from the region – people came from miles and miles and miles to see Norman Wisdom's last performance.

'I think he had said the week before that it would be his last ever performance so it was completely sold out. He was 89 and fell over quite a lot – he fell over the piano and sang Don't Laugh at Me.

'He also met and greeted the audience before the show and was just wonderful. He couldn't have been nicer. It was kind of a sad evening but even at 89 he was still pretty chipper and it was right to bow out at the point at which he could still do it.'

Todd Carty, in Norwich to star in Spamalot which is currently at the Theatre Royal, was another who paid tribute to Sir Norman Wisdom.

The actor, who most recently appeared in The Bill but is best known for his roles as Tucker Jenkins in Grange Hill and Mark Fowler in EastEnders, said: 'I got to know Norman in the mid-90s; I went to his house and he came over, and he knew my kids. Charlie Chaplin once said Norman was his favourite clown, and you can't get a better tribute than that. He was a comic genius.'

Pauline Bloomfield, 46, from Plantsman Close, off Lime Tree Avenue, Norwich, said she was saddened to hear that Sir Norman had died.

She said: 'I can't believe he's gone. He was just a fantastic guy. I didn't actually see him when he came to Norwich, but just saw him on TV. '

Lifelong fan Ken Wisdom, from Cotman Fields, off Bishopgate, Norwich, not only shares the same surname as his hero but in 2004 received a 15 minute phone call from the comic.

Mr Wisdom, who sent Sir Norman a Christmas card every year, initially thought it was a wind up from a friend until Sir Norman said he had received his card.

Mr Wisdom, who attended the comic's last show in Norwich, said Sir Norman was a 'true legend' who made people laugh all over the world.

He said: 'The greatest comic ever lived on stage and in films. Wherever he went and whoever he met he was always the same,laughing and messing about and of course that famous tripping over.

'He did all his own stunts which were just amazing. I will never forget when he phoned me from the Isle of Man when I lost my programme at his last ever show and he got me one and signed it - that's the sort of gentleman he was.

'I was pleased i saw him in his last show and was thrilled when i saw it was going to be in Norwich. Everyone around the world will miss him, but they will always watch his films,he will never be forgoton.'

Kirsty Nunn, from Norwich, recalls meeting Sir Norman after one of his shows in Norwich. She said: 'He was very tired but he was lovely. We even wrote to each other for a little while. His films never fail to make me laugh.'

Do you have memories of Norman Wisdom? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, or