A ventriloquist mentored by the late entertainment star Keith Harris has launched a fund-raising campaign to get a statue in Blackpool in his honour.
Steve Hewlett is hosting a bumper night of variety in memory of Keith, who died in 2015, and hopes to raise around £20,000 towards an estimated £30,000 to have a statue in his memory installed in the town he made his home.
Eyes And Teeth will take place at Viva Blackpool, on Friday, September 21 – Keith’s birthday, featuring a who’s who of variety stars such as Bobby Davro, The Krankies, Christopher Biggins and Nigel Havers, plus Bobby Crush who wrote Orville’s famous I Wish I Could Fly song, as well as Keith’s daughter Kitty.
Steve first met and worked with Keith in 1995, aged 20, and paid tribute to his kind nature: “He was such a high profile entertainer in Blackpool and had so many seasons here,” Steve said. “He did the Sandcastle, the Grand, every theatre. Keith’s face was all over town.
“We became friend in 1995 when he showed me round the town and he became a friend from being an idol.
“He could have ignored me – he was another ventriloquist. We could have been seen as competition but he never thought that.
“He would phone me two or three times a week for a chat.
“He was my hero when I started out and became a really good friend.”
Steve believes a statue would cost ‘at least £30,000’ and that the Eyes And Teeth night could raise as much as £20,000 with all the acts agreeing to perform for free.
Also set to appear are CBBC mascot Hacker T Dog, The Grumbleweeds, and comedians Tom Binns and Steve Royle.
“Everyone is pulling together – it’s the royalty of variety,” Steve said.
“I was a kid growing up watching these people, so it’s an honour for me to have them working with me on this.
“A statue was mentioned straight away when Keith died. I’m going to be meeting with the council soon about the possibility of making it happen.
“We’re trying to agree a spot where it could go and to fundraise to pay for it is going to take a long time.
“But people have already been giving cash, the public want it to happen.”
Steve’s stayed in close contact with Keith’s family, and his daughter Kitty appears as a guest artiste on his Saturday night shows at the Pleasure Beach.
“Kitty opens the first half of my show, that’s how close Keith and I were,” Steve added.
“He would have loved to have known I’m working with Kitty, offering her a cabaret spot in my show. It’s nice to be able to pay him back.”