Honour for showbiz supremo

The impresario who brought the Rolling Stones to Wisbech is to take his place in a hall of fame at Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House.

A plaque will be unveiled in Heroes’ Arcade in the garden of the museum at 7 South Brink to Wisbech-born concert promoter Norman Jacobs, who died in 2016, on Thursday (June 14), and members of his family are expected to attend.

During his spell at the helm of the Corn Exchange in Wisbech, Mr Jacobs – who was made MBE for his services to business and to charity in East Anglia – brought some of the biggest names in show business to the town, including Tom Jones, Frankie Vaughan and the Hollies, as well as playing host to roller skating enthusiasts.

The Rolling Stones were signed up to play at the venue on the corner of North Brink and Old Market in 1963, and for the six shillings and sixpence ticket cost – just over 30 pence in today’s money – concert goers could enjoy the magic of the south’s answer to Liverpool, with the reassurance that buses would be running to March, King’s Lynn, Welney, Long Sutton, Sutton St James and Parson Drove when the last dance was done.

Mr Jacobs sadly missed a trick with another up-and-coming band, known as The Beatles, because they were an unknown quantity.   Their manager, Brian Epstein, offered them, but Mr Jacobs declined them in favour of another group of contenders, only to learn that the Beatles had made the big time just a few weeks later.

He went on to buy the Grade II listed Art Deco gem, the Empire Theatre, restoring cinema, theatre and musical events to the venue and bringing funny man Ken Dodd to the Wisbech stage.   Mr Jacobs also bought the old Hippodrome Theatre, which had been operating as a cinema before 1934 and had been renamed the Unit One Cinema, before it was bulldozed to make way for the Horse Fair development.

The unveiling of the plaque on Thursday (June 14) is at 11.30am and all are welcome to pay tribute to the man who put Wisbech on the musical map.   There will also be an opportunity to recall  the glory days of the Empire Theatre during a tour with his son, Norman Jacobs Jnr, on the previous day, Wednesday, June 13, during an ‘Art Deco’ walk being staged as part of a series of walks by the Birthplace House.

The walkers meet at 7pm at the Clarkson Memorial for each event.   No booking is necessary, but there is charge of £3 per person and the proceeds go to the Birthplace House, where Octavia Hill, the social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust, spent her early days.

The next walk in the series, ‘Gordon Fendick’s Wisbech’, with Steve Tierney, on Wednesday (June 20), celebrates the life of the last chief education officer of the Isle of Ely, who owned Wisbech Castle.