British acting legend Brian Blessed has been appointed the honorary patron of Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre.
The big-voiced star told a sell-out audience at the theatre, where Blessed was making his first public appearance since he was forced to withdraw from a production of King Lear after collapsing on stage in January: “Clitheroe feels like my second home now.”
Blessed said: “I’ve climbed Everest three times, walked across the Antarctic, and because I’ve been in that rarefied atmosphere you do get a tremendous instinct for what is good and what is real in life.
“The first feeling I had about the Grand Theatre was trust, they are doing something special and it sparked my imagination.
“Art is everything, it is what keeps you alive and keeps a smile on God’s face.
“The Grand is encouraging art, music, and vivid ideas and all this amazing work in a tiny Lancashire theatre.
“You can keep the West End – I’d rather come to Clitheroe any day.”
One of the country’s best-loved actors, Blessed has starred in theatre, film and TV, appearing in Z Cars and the film Flash Gordon.
“It is an incredible honour for me to be patron at the Grand, and I’m going to report this all over the world, what is happening in Clitheroe.”
Blessed revealed his first appearance at the Ribble Valley theatre satisfied a long held ambition to visit the town since he first starred in the 1960s cop series Z Cars.
You can keep the West End – I’d rather come to Clitheroe any dayBrian Blessed
“This really means something special, going back 50 years to when I was in Z Cars,” he said.
“In the programme, Sergeant Percy Twentyman (Leonard Williams) was a great pal, and he’d do the voices for the Clitheroe Kid.
“Leonard would often go up to Clitheroe, where he had friends, and when he came back he’d wax lyrical about the people there, that they were the salt of the earth, kind and caring people.
“Leonard dropped dead boiling an egg at home and the newspaper headlines boomed out, ‘The Star of the Clitheroe Kid is dead.”
“A nation mourned and I never forgot what he said about Clitheroe.”
Steven Lancaster, The Grand’s executive director, said: “To have an actor of Brian Blessed’s great standing, a man who has performed at all the great theatres in the world as patron is a wonderful privilege.
“We’ve tried to create a special ethos at the Grand, promoting community involvement of the arts, and Brian had certainly picked up on that, and he, I’m sure, will help put a national spotlight on the Grand.”
Steven added: “I was a huge sci-fi fan as a boy and Flash Gordon was one of my favourites, so to have one of the heroes from the film, shouting Gordon’s Alive on stage in Clitheroe was just incredible.”