Tributes paid to Mr Eastbourne at unveiling

Wyn Calvin, Roy Hudd and Steve Hewlett with Sandy Powell's ventriloquist dummy Archie SUS-150414-135653001
Wyn Calvin, Roy Hudd and Steve Hewlett with Sandy Powell's ventriloquist dummy Archie SUS-150414-135653001

The life of Sandy Powell, also known as Mr Eastbourne, was celebrated as a blue plaque was unveiled at his former town centre home this week.

Comedian and friend Roy Hudd unveiled the blue plaque at 11 Elms Avenue close to Eastbourne Pier.

Sandy Powell was indelibly linked with Eastbourne. For 20 years he starred in and produced summer shows at the Eastbourne Pier Theatre and he spent the latter part of his life living in Elms Avenue.

Star of stage and screen Roy Hudd, also the president of the British Music Hall Society, was joined by vice president Wyn Calvin, Eastbourne mayor Janet Coles and Britain’s Got Talent finalist and ventriloquist Steve Hewlett at the ceremony, which was also well supported by members of the public.

Sandy Powell was a Rotherham-born comedian whose show business career spanned more than 75 years.

He will always be remembered for his catchphrase “Can You Hear Me Mother?”

Born in January 1900 he acquired the nickname Sandy because of his red hair. He left school and entered show business becoming a music hall entertainer touring the provinces as a boy soprano with his mother.

In 1918 he topped the bill for the first time at the Palace Theatre in Blackpool. He made more than 100 records, sold seven and a half million copies and his show Sandy’s Hour in 1928 was the first regular variety show broadcast by BBC Radio.

In the 1930s he became a big radio star, coining what he claimed to be radio’s first catchphrase – Can You Hear Me Mother?

He was often associated with Gracie Fields through their collaborations together and he was the star of eight full length feature films.

In later decades he continued to work in television and theatre appearing in many pantomimes and summer seasons.

So well-loved was Sandy locally, and even though he was a Yorkshireman, he acquired the nickname Mr Eastbourne.

In his later years as a performer he was famous for two classic sketches: the incompetent magician and far from accomplished ventriloquist with his dummy Archie. He was awarded the MBE in 1975 and died in 1982.

Members of the British Hall Society who turned out for the ceremony plan to show film footage of Sandy on the show Day By The Sea at the Royal Hippodrome on May 16.