Ken met all the greats of variety

Picture by Julian Brown for the LEP 01/06/15''Items from the exhibition of old-time entertainment at the new Morecambe Heritage Centre.
Picture by Julian Brown for the LEP 01/06/15''Items from the exhibition of old-time entertainment at the new Morecambe Heritage Centre.
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A man whose labour of love is on display in Morecambe is giving back to the resort after becoming spellbound by its entertainment scene as a young man.

Ken Bowe, whose collection of old-time music hall and variety memorabilia can be seen at the new Morecambe Heritage Centre, used to visit our town as a boy on regular trips from his native Bradford.

Items from the exhibition of old-time entertainment at the new Morecambe Heritage Centre. Photo by Julian Brown.

Items from the exhibition of old-time entertainment at the new Morecambe Heritage Centre. Photo by Julian Brown.

“Like many Bradford lads in the early 1950s, I used to come to Morecambe for the day and I’ve had a love of Morecambe ever since,” said Ken, who now lives in Blackpool.

“I remember seeing the Hedley Ward Trio at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe as a boy.”

Born in 1942 into a railway family, Ken moved to Thornton Cleveleys near Blackpool at a young age and at the age of seven he fell in love with the theatre after watching the Open Air Pierrot concerts on the sea front in Cleveleys.

After settling in Bradford, Ken became a regular at the Alhambra Theatre run by the famous impresario Francis Laidler.

Here he saw and met all the greats of variety like Laurel and Hardy, Hylda Baker, Ronnie Ronalde, The Beverley Sisters, Terry Thomas and the Four Smith Brothers.

He started collecting autographs, programmes and photos of the stars until he left school at the age of 15.

In the 1870s music hall evolved from the taverns and gin palaces in London and finally became the working man’s theatre, creating wonderful artists like Marie Lloyd, Dan Leno, Little Tich, Vesta Tilley, George Robey and Sir Harry Lauder.

Ken has a vast collection of photographs and programmes from this era which are now on display in exhibitions around the country.

Also in the exhibition in Morecambe are rare programmes of artists from a later date including foreign artists like Caruso, Piaf, Sinatra and the Rat Pack. The collection was featured on the Boxing Day BBC Television programme Blackpool Night Out in 2012.

Ken is an honorary member of the Blackpool Magicians Club, an active member of the Friends Of The Grand Theatre Blackpool and a member of the British Music Hall Society.

Thanks to Debbie Cain for her help with this feature.