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Dinner Guest – Peter Cresswell

Being born and brought up in Great Yarmouth, which in those days was a thriving seaside resort, whetted my appetite for the entertainment scene, that played such a major part in the local holiday industry.

My parents always took me to the shows during the summer season. I was hooked, and probably the only boy at Great Yarmouth Grammar School whose favourite TV programme was “Sunday Night at the London Palladium”.

Upon leaving school, I was offered a position in what was then Great Yarmouth’s Entertainment and Publicity Department. In my second season, Morecambe & Wise topped the bill at the Council-run Wellington Pier Theatre. I recall the first occasion I witnessed a young lad asking Eric Morecambe for his autograph. The boy thanked him profusely. Eric’s typical response was “I should be thanking you, not you thanking me”.

All the top stars of the day performed in summer season shows in the resort, in those days. At the Wellington Pier one summer, we hosted Mike & Bernie Winters, Matt Monro and Jimmy Tarbuck all on the same bill. In addition, Des O’Connor, Val Doonican, Charlie Drake, Freddie “Mr Parrot Face” Davies, Frank Ifield and Roy Hudd all topped the bill over the years, not forgetting one of the nicest people I met during my career, Leslie Crowther.

Sunday concerts were always a big success. I recall the first time I saw Bob Monkhouse perform live – I was bowled over. One Sunday, Roger Whittaker only arrived just before the interval of the first house. We took the risk of starting the show without him, as he was only scheduled to appear in the second half.

My career journey subsequently took me to Cambridge, Worthing and Leamington Spa. One of my highlights in Cambridge was a concert by Nana Mouskouri. My responsibilities there also included outdoor entertainment. An event that has become world famous, the Cambridge Folk Festival, was organised by the Council’s entertainments service.

My years in Worthing, managing the Pavilion Theatre and Assembly Hall, extended my experience in all sectors of the industry. I particularly enjoyed the BBC weekend, when three concerts were broadcast live from the resort on consecutive evenings. One year we also hosted Pete Murray’s Open House. Do any readers remember that?

I guess I will always be more closely associated with Leamington Spa, as I spent almost 20 years there as General Manager of the Royal Spa Centre, before opting for early retirement and returning to live in East Anglia.

Over the years it was a pleasure dealing with a variety of theatrical agents. I always enjoyed telephone calls from Keith Salberg amongst others. Johnny Mans, Jack Higgins, Roy Hastings and Peter Foot were frequently in touch, the latter before he became founding publisher of “Encore”. I had a particularly good business relationship with Derek Boulton. Concerts by The Ted Heath Band, who he managed, were particularly special. However, the highlight of the annual programme was the visit by Sir Ken Dodd. Always a late night or early morning for us all, but who cared as Ken was excellent value.

I believed that networking should play an important part in the role of a theatre manager. I was an active member of the Institute of Entertainment and Arts Management, and before that the Institute of Municipal Entertainment. I had the honour of being President of IEAM in 1991/92.

It was a great career. Entertainment has played a significant part in my life and I consider myself extremely fortunate that over the years I had the opportunity to book a wide variety of concerts and shows that brought enjoyment to so many people.

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