Theatre was the scene of Keith’s record breaker

Keith Harris and Orville, preparing for their appearance on Channel 4's Celebrity Come Dine With Me. Picture Martin Bostock

Keith Harris and Orville, preparing for their appearance on Channel 4's Celebrity Come Dine With Me. Picture Martin Bostock

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Fans of Keith Harris have paid their respects at the scene of one of his greatest showbiz ventures.

The eternally-popular ventriloquist holds the record for the most tickets sold at the Grand Theatre, for a five-month run there in 1983.

And the record will stand as his legacy for ever more as the theatre now has a smaller capacity.

Grand marketing manager Andrew Howard said people had been visiting the theatre since news of Keith’s death broke on Tuesday morning, to pay their respects.

“He did eight shows a week from July to November 1983,” Andrew said. “It was the summer following the Christmas when the single Orville Song ‘I Wish I Could Fly’ got to number four in the charts.

“The show sold more seats than any other we have done, and now the record cannot be broken as we don’t have as many seats.”

It was the summer following the Christmas when the single Orville Song ‘I Wish I Could Fly’ got to number four in the charts

Keith died in the early hours of Tuesday after a battle with cancer of the spleen.

He had spoken late last year of his road to recovery, and played three matinee dates at Sands Venue on Central Promenade in the run up to Christmas.

Owner Peter Swann said: “Looking back now it was very poignant to have Keith here and I’m glad he was able to perform here.

“He was in good form during the shows, so it came as a shock to hear of his death as I thought he had gotten over the worst.”

Peter said he’d known Keith for around 10 years, and paid tribute to his skills as 
an entertainer.

“He wasn’t just a ventriloquist, he was far more than that and was a pure entertainer,” he said.

“You would cry with laughter, even having seen the show several times.

“Keith was so funny, it’s a really, really sad loss to the entertainment world and the local area but we are pleased we got to see him last year at Sands.”

Comedian Phil Walker grew up watching Keith’s act and was inspired and encouraged by Keith’s work.

The son of comic Roy Walker said: “When I first started on the circuit around Blackpool, Keith was very much part of the scene and a great personality. We spent a few good nights in his Club l’Orange.

“As a ventriloquist, I don’t think there was anyone better, and in pantomime – which has been a big part of my career – he was a legend.”