Sooty celebrates his 60th year with a new owner and live tour

Lalayn Baluch
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Children’s TV favourite Sooty has been bought by the show’s presenter Richard Cadell on the puppet’s 60th birthday.

Cadell, who has been presenting the show since 1998, purchased the rights to Sooty from Bridgefilms for a “significant sum”.

He told The Stage he is currently working on new material for a live tour entitled Sooty in Space, which will premiere in February, following smaller shows in Butlins resorts around the country. Cadell will also appear in a pantomime with the bear and his sidekick Sweep, alongside former EastEnders actress Letitia Dean, at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable. The show will be produced by his production company Duo Entertainment.

He said: “The routines that I’ve been presenting are Harry Corbett’s [creator of Sooty] from the fifties and the kids still scream with laughter, exactly the same way that they did 50 years ago. Kids haven’t changed. We’ve got a revival of Paddington Bear, Rupert, Basil Brush, names that parents now trust.

“Look at society and knife crime, I’m sure that is influenced by computer games and graphics. I think people are now thinking back to how things were – simple, with good values, and I think Sooty falls into that category.”

Cadell, who first appeared as a guest on the show at the age of 15, is also developing three formats for a new TV series. Plans include a sitcom-style show based on the puppets working in a handyman agency, a studio-based live variety show and a pre-school game show. He said he has also piloted a radio programme with the silent puppet and is looking to expand on that.

This month marks the 60th year since Corbett bought the Sooty puppet from Blackpool pier as a present for his son Matthew, before transforming it into a TV show for the BBC in 1952. Corbett Jnr went on to present the programme from 1976 and sold the rights in 1996 for £1.4 million, following his retirement.

He said: “I’m delighted that Sooty is in, or should I say on, the right hands. Richard Cadell is as close to a Corbett as you can get and we’re very confident that he will give Sooty the love and attention he deserves.”

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster