Ronnie Barker statue is unveiled
Archived press release
Date Published: 30/09/10
Sir David Jason and Ronnie Corbett join Ronnie Barker's widow for the official unveiling
A larger-than-life bronze statue of the late comedy legend Ronnie Barker has been unveiled in Aylesbury.
The Porridge and Two Ronnies star, who died five years ago, began his acting career in Aylesbury more than 60 years ago.
Aylesbury Vale District Council commissioned internationally-acclaimed sculptor Martin Jennings to design the statue as part of its Waterside development project.
It now takes pride of place in the new public space outside the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre in Exchange Street.
The statue was officially unveiled by Mr Barker's widow, Joy. Mrs Barker said: “He would have been very proud of it. Martin Jennings has done a fantastic job.”
She was joined at the ceremony by some of her husband's former colleagues including long-time comedy partner Ronnie Corbett and Open All Hours co-star Sir David Jason.
Sculptor Martin Jennings has depicted Mr Barker in his role as prison inmate Norman Stanley Fletcher, in the classic 1970s' series Porridge, sitting on a stone bench looking up at the new theatre.
The 5ft 6in (1.7m), 100kg statue – one and quarter times life size – was modelled by hand and then cast in bronze at the Pangolin Foundry in Gloucestershire.
Mr Jennings, whose work includes the statue of poet Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras station in London, said: "It's been delightful to make this statue of Ronnie Barker. He was a comic genius and he was a wonderful shape to sculpt. I've depicted him in his Porridge character glancing up approvingly at the new theatre as if looking back happily over a long career to the days when he began it all in Aylesbury."
Ronnie Barker was born in Bedford in 1929 and worked in a bank before joining the Aylesbury Repertory Company.
He made his professional debut on 15 November 1948, at the old County Theatre in Aylesbury's Market Square, with a small role playing Lieutenant Spicer in J. M. Barrie's Quality Street.
By 1955 he was in demand in the West End and appeared in a number of productions including Mourning Becomes Electra, Lysistrata and Irma La Douce.
During the 1960s, he became well established as a radio performer, leaving his theatrical career behind.
He teamed up with Ronnie Corbett in 1971, and their sketch show, The Two Ronnies, ran for 12 series over 16 years.
His many accolades include four Baftas and an OBE, which he received in 1978.
Councillor John Cartwright, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council, said: "The sculptor Martin Jennings has created a wonderful work of art. The statue is a fitting tribute to a great man and one of Britain's best loved performers. I'm sure it will not only delight theatregoers, but will also be an attraction to Ronnie Barker fans throughout the country and perhaps even further afield."
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre will open on Tuesday 12 October for its first professional performance, preceded by a programme of community events. The landmark venue is managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group on behalf of AVDC.
To see the full programme of theatre events, go to www.ambassadortickets.com/aylesbury