Sooty and Sweep – Where Are They Now?

cleethorpes-versionSMALLLOCATION: Cleethorpes & Southport

WORDS: Morticia

When I was little I loved Sooty – well the Sooty show that is.

I didn’t actually like Sooty himself as I thought he was a bit of a goody two shoes sneak all too ready to get Sweep into trouble. I adored Sweep – he was cheeky and impish and could be quite naughty and I loved the way his squeak sounded when he laughed.

I didn’t like the way Sooty took advantage of his slightly dim nature and Sue – well she was just a bit too high pitched really and a bit of a suck up to Mr (Matthew) Corbett so she got on my nerves too. I was also quite fond of Spike the dog.DSC00146SMALL

Some years ago I went to the Sooty Museum in Shipley (sadly no more) and it was a wonderful meander down Memory Lane – there were videos of proper old black and white Sooty shows with Mr Corbett Senior in charge of the mayhem, as well as sets and props.

I spent ages happily wandering about though my back did ache after a while as it was really designed for children so everything was a bit lower and I had to stoop to see everything. I have seen the latest Sooty incarnation – well the episode that featured John Shuttleworth that is and that was funny , though the new man in charge of Sweep et al wears very heavy foundation and I don’t think I could sit through the whole series. It was far too noisy.

P1040331SMALLBut I could sit in front of either of the Harry Corbett Sooty TV Concert tableaux that can be found in Cleethorpes and Southport (almost) all day and be utterly entranced – one that can be found in one of the arcades on the  front at Cleethorpes along and another fully restored one can be found in the Vintage Arcade on the pier in Southport.

I found this the first time I went to Cleethorpes some ten years ago in hope of reactivating seaside holiday memories from when I was little. Cleethorpes is an entrancing mix of slightly flyblown seaside that time forgot, 2p one arm bandits, air hockey, fish and chips, a perilously placed roller coaster and  lurking deep in the Humber foritfications built during the First World War. It is a wonderful place and I love it.

southport-versionSMALLWhen I first went it cost 20p to bring Sooty and Sweep back to life but now it has gone up to 50p. But it is worth every penny seconds after you put the coin in – the light comes on and they judder into dusty life and they dance along to Buddy Holly and The Crickets. But in Southport they dance and play along to old nursery rhymes like Baa Baa Black Sheep and Pop Goes The Weasel.

The one in Cleethorpes is full of dust and held together with sellotape but the one in Southport is much more pristine – still worn but not quite as manky and operated by a big old golden penny. And best of all when they finish playing a tune in Southport Harry Corbett himself says in good old fashioned Sooty style – ‘bye bye everybody, bye bye’. A voice that brings yesteryear right back for those of us of a certain age who have never quite grown up.P1040332SMALL

The vintage arcade in Southport has all sorts of gems – bagatelle, Haunted Houses and if you’re ever near there or Cleethorpes I urge you to go and seek them out as they are the best nostalgic fun you can have for pennies – plus you can marvel at Sue’s dedication to her drumming in Cleethorpes as she doesn’t actually hold the sticks – she has had them grafted into her arms – now that is dedication for you.

But there must have been artistic differences within the band though as in Southport she’s been shifted from the drums to the piano and Sooty is on the drums and Sweep’s guitar has been replaced by a saxophone.

Morticia is a writer and photographic artist with a sideline interest in seaside kitsch. Based in Leeds you can find her on Twitter as @ladylugosi or read her blog here.

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