Living in Morecambe was a crucial time for my youngest sister Victoria Wood.
Living with her partner, the magician Geoffrey Durham, later her husband, Victoria began to develop the unique comedy style that brought her huge success.
Geoffrey played his part by advising, encouraging and teaching Vic card tricks.
In an early self-promoted show “Tickling My Ivories”, Vic offered “an evening of singing, talking, sketches, standing up, sitting down again and possible one card trick. All inquiries to 12 Oxford Street, Morecambe”.
In 1977 Geoff, as the “Spanish” magician The Great Soprendo, played the Silver Jubilee Victorian Music Hall on Morecambe’s Central Pier, put on by the Dukes’ Theatre three times a week, June 20 to September 3.
Vic and Geoff decided to stay in Morecambe and rented the first-floor flat in Oxford Street, overlooking the bus station, at £13 a week.
At the time that was the only work they had between them. As things improved, they moved to a better flat overlooking the sea, and then to their own home with an orchard in Silverdale across Morecambe Bay.
When Vic and Geoff first became a couple living in a Morecambe flat, our mum Nellie Wood was a bit worried and sent our dad Stanley to check up on them.
As Stan told it, he went up the fire escape and found the back door unlocked. It was early on a Saturday morning, and he crept inside to find two figures fast asleep on the floor in two separate sleeping bags.
Eventually one stirred. “Are you all right, love?” said one. “I’m all right, are you all right?” came the reply. “Yes, I’m all right” was the rejoinder, and with that, both went back to sleep. Without announcing his presence, Stan crept out. He reported back to Nellie that there was nothing to worry about: “They’re just like an old married couple”, he said.
After four years together, Geoffrey eventually persuaded Vic to marry him. They had planned to marry in Morecambe on February 29, 1980 so their wedding anniversaries would be only every four years, but the local register office only issued death certificates. So they married in Lancaster on March 1. No family was present: Vic informed our parents by postcard later that month.
The Morecambe flat, packed with books, was a hive of creativity. Vic wrote her first play “Talent” there, writing longhand all day with Geoff typing it up at night.
Victoria’s long-term friend and collaborator Julie Walters rehearsed there on Vic’s follow-up play “Nearly a Happy Ending.”
It is widely believed that the inspiration for Vic’s best-known comedy sketch “Two Soups” came from her regular visits to Lubin’s café in Morecambe.
Looking for a family home, the Durhams moved to Silverdale. This was a happy time for Vic and Geoff and their two children Grace (born 1988) and Henry (born 1992). While still pursuing their careers, Vic and Geoff spent as much time as possible with the children.
As they both had to be in London a lot, they made the decision to move to the capital. They set up home in Highgate, where Victoria sadly died in April this year.
Living in London, primarily because of her career, Victoria never became a ‘luvvie.’
Brought up in Bury and spending those crucial early years of her career in Morecambe. Vic was always the ‘Lancashire Lass.’
She never forgot her roots, and she remained the same down-to-earth, unfussy, unspoiled sister I had the privilege of knowing, loving and admiring throughout her remarkable life and hugely successful career.
As well as being a top comedy writer and performer, Vic also showed her talent as a dramatic actor.
She won a best actress Bafta in the TV film ‘Housewife, 49’, and memorably played Eric Morecambe’s mother Sadie Bartholomew in ‘Eric and Ernie.’ The success of the Eric Morecambe statue in Morecambe inspired me to sponsor a similar statue of Victoria in our home town of Bury. My Crowdfunding appeal has so far raised £23,000 for the project.
l Victoria Wood Comedy Genius – Her Life and Work, published by Memoir Club at £12 (softback), is available from bookshops, Amazon etc and direct from the publishers [email protected] or phone 0191 419 2288.
Chris Foote Wood is a writer and actor with 19 books published. He has performed his one-man show “The Genius of Charles Dickens” around the UK for several years, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the last three years.
To contribute to Chris’s Crowdfunding appeal for a statue of Victoria Wood to be placed in Bury, visit the website www.tinyurl.com/letsdoitforvictoria