Back in the summer of ‘71

Susan Baines, of Manor Drive in Cleveleys, who was a Diddyman in the Opera House's Ken Dodd show in 1971.
Susan Baines, of Manor Drive in Cleveleys, who was a Diddyman in the Opera House's Ken Dodd show in 1971.
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Susan Baines has good memories of the summer of ‘71.

It was a busy summer, but one filled with good experiences.

And every time she sees veteran comedian Ken Dodd on TV or reads about him in the paper, she can recall very clearly and fondly, her summer spent as a Diddyman.

Susan, a bus driver who lives in Cleveleys, was chosen from thousands of hopeful youngsters back in 1971 to star at the Opera House in the Winter Gardens, alongside the star in his hit show at the height of his fame.

She spent six weeks doing twice-nightly shows and matinees on Saturdays. And she loved every minute.

The mum-of-three said: “My mum had seen an advert in The Gazette asking for local children, who lived within a four mile radius of Blackpool to come and audition at The Winter Gardens.

“There was some criteria, including being 11 or over and you had to be under 4ft 6ins tall. I was about 4ft 4ins tall and I was 11 at the time and had been attending Whittaker’s Dance School in Blackpool since I was about six.

“I can remember being at The Winter Gardens for the audition and there were literally thousands of children there, which they gradually narrowed down.

“One of the first ways they eliminated children was to bring in a big stick with 4ft 6ins marked on it and those over it were sent away. Likewise those who were not the right age or lived locally.

“They asked me a few questions and then I had to sing.

“The choreographer stood at the back and you had to project your voice and if she could hear you, then you got through to the next stage.”

Susan played the most famous of the Diddymen, Dickie Mint, who the legendary comedian still features as part of his act today – now in the guise of a ventriloquist dummy.

Susan, a former pupil of Hodgson High School and Poulton C of E, said: “It was brilliant, I absolutely loved it.

“We each did four-week blocks and mine was in July, but I got asked to stay on another two weeks.

“I was so excited about it beforehand and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

“Now if somebody mentions Ken Dodd, my mind skips back to it and being on-stage. Ken Dodd was marvellous with us.

“We didn’t see him much off-stage, but sometimes we would take his tea and biscuits to him. He was always really nice.

“I remember there were two ladies looking after us – one was called Madame Vera.

“I had always enjoyed singing, acting and dancing.”

Susan used to work in the finance department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, and was an aerobics instructor in her spare time, but now works as a driver and supervisor for Cumfy Bus.