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DMU's renowned film centre is given comedy legend's archive

A comedy archive of actor and comedian Sir Norman Wisdom has been donated to De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) on what would have his 100th birthday. 

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CELEBRATION: Historian RIchard Dacre, DMU's Professor of Cinema History Steve Chibnall and Comedy Festival director, Geoff Rowe

Scripts, TV features, radio and theatre programmes from Sir Norman’s 60-year showbusiness career was given to DMU at the launch of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival today.

The archive will be handed over by Sir Norman’s biographer and film historian Richard Dacre, who was a close friend of the comedian.

It will be presented to Professor Steve Chibnall, Professor of British Cinema at DMU’s Centre for Film and Television History (CATH).

The donation of the archive is one part of the celebrations staged by the comedy festival to honor Sir Norman, which also include a special exhibition, put together by Norman’s son Nick, which will be displayed throughout the festival at De Montfort Hall.  Nick will also take part in an “In Conversation With…” evening with festival director & founder, Geoff Rowe BEM.

Sir Norman was the first patron of Leicester Comedy Festival and agreed to support the event when it was first put together by DMU students in 1994.  
Prof Chibnall said: “He was a hugely successful figure in his day, the most successful person in the British box office in the 1950s and his films in the 1960s saved Rank. Charlie Chaplin loved him.

“He’s still hugely popular, particularly in Europe because physical comedy translates so well and of course he is a cult figure here as well as being a Knight of the theatre. It will be a tremendous resource and one which we can study and curate here at CATH.”

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Richard Dacre said: “I have written, lectured and broadcast extensively about Norman Wisdom over the years, including a contribution to Routledge-De Montfort’s British Comedy Cinema. Having once also been the owner of Flashbacks Memorabilia store means I have acquired a fairly comprehensive memorabilia collection on the great man.

"I always intended to donate this to an institution and after careful consideration I am delighted to offer it to De Montfort. It is a natural extension of De Montfort’s interest in British popular cinema to acquire such collections, and they have already proven their expertise in this area not least in publicising their holdings and making them available to serious researchers."

Geoff Rowe, founder and director of the comedy festival, invited Sir Norman to be patron of the festival and will be interviewing his son Nick.

He said: “I am thrilled that we are able to recognise Sir Norman Wisdom on what would have been his 100th birthday.  

“I remember writing the letter to him back when we were setting up the festival and I never imagined he would agree to support us and be a patron of the event.  It was an honour to welcome Norman to the festival in 2002 and meet him to say thank you.”

CATH is already the home of Hammer Film archive – a collection of scripts, memorabilia, books and merchandise from the legendary studios. 

Posted on Tuesday 22nd March 2016

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