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Comic legend Norman Wisdom’s Islington stage debut revealed

PUBLISHED: 17:46 08 October 2010 | UPDATED: 11:14 14 October 2010

A UNIQUE record of the late Norman Wisdom s first public performance 65 years ago has been unearthed from the Islington Gazette archives. The much-loved comic entertainer, who died on Monday aged 95, is known to have made his stage debut in Islington shor

A UNIQUE record of the late Norman Wisdom's first public performance 65 years ago has been unearthed from the Islington Gazette archives.

The much-loved comic entertainer, who died on Monday aged 95, is known to have made his stage debut in Islington shortly after leaving the army following the end of the Second World War.

Yesterday an advert for a variety show at the former Collins Music Hall, in Islington Green, was found in an edition of the Gazette dated December 14, 1945 - with Wisdom sixth on the bill.

Mark Aston, local history manager at Islington Museum, in St John Street, Finsbury, said: "I guess he wasn't out of the army that long. He would have been 30 at time and he'd have been hot off the press from performing for the troops in the war."

Islington Museum and the neighbouring Finsbury Library hold a complete microfilm record of every edition of the Gazette that has been printed since it was founded in 1856.

The vintage advert hails Wisdom as "The Successful Failure", appearing alongside other colourful Music Hall acts including "The Atomic Dancer" Lisette Darnier and Donis & Della, "Perfection In Pose".

Mr Aston said: "There was a suggestion Norman Wisdom's obituaries that he trod the boards at a theatre in Islington after the war and I thought 'that's interesting'. I had a delve through the Gazettes from December 1945 and there was this advert!

"Islington has a rich history of entertainment dating back from Henry VIII onwards. It was known as 'Merry Islington' in Elizabethan times. It would be great to turn back the clock and catch these acts in the flesh. I'm sure Norman Wisdom played here many times afterwards too."

The historian added: "The Gazette is the only newspaper going since its inception in 1856 that we have complete copies of on microfilm. It's a fantastic archive and a great source."

The Collins Theatre burned down in the late 1950s, although part of the original building still remains. A branch of Waterstones bookshops now stands on the site.

Wisdom went on to become a national treasure, starring in scores of films and hit shows in the West End and on Broadway. He was awarded a knighthood in 2000 before retiring from showbiz five years later


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