Sooty hoping for a clean Sweep of full houses

Sooty - The glove puppet which appears on TV with Harry Corbett
Sooty - The glove puppet which appears on TV with Harry Corbett

Children’s TV legend Sooty is heading to the Borders next month for the world premiere of his new tour, and is intent on delighting audiences of all ages in Galashiels and Duns.

The Sooty Show doesn’t just hold the mantle for being the longest-running children’s TV show in the UK, it can make that boast the world over.

Having bought a Sooty puppet for his son, Matthew, whilst on holiday in 1948, Harry Corbett brought the lovable yet mischievous puppet to TV screens in 1952.

After 24 years of playful mayhem with Sooty and his friends, the unpredictable Sweep and straight-talking Sue, Harry handed the puppets and the programme to Matthew in 1976.

Matthew took the show and the terrible trio to a new generation and new heights of popularity before calling it a day in 1998. Just as his father had done two decades earlier, Matthew handed the ‘Sooty’ brand onto someone else – his then co-star Richard Caddell. The rest, as they say, is history.

Richard bought the rights to Sooty in June 2008 and has been entertaining audiences both on screen and in venues throughout the UK ever since.

He’s happy to proclaim it as his dream job and is excited to be taking the show to places who weren’t even aware Sooty and friends had a life outside of television.

“As well as being the longest-running children’s TV show, it’s actually one of the longest running touring shows as well. Although I think with Harry it didn’t get any further north than Manchester! Down south we have older people who bring their grandchildren along because they went along when they were little. It’s a whole new experience for people in places like the Borders, so it’s great to be starting the new tour there.”

Make no bones about it, to many people the Corbetts were ‘Sooty’, and Richard has great respect and admiration for both men. But he feels he’s doing a rather good job himself.

He first got involved by winning a guest spot as part of his prize for being named Young Magician of the Year by the Magic Circle when he was 15. Now he has full creative control of the brand.

“Many people, including myself, look back on Matthew’s era with great fondness, so I was daunted and petrified about taking over from him.

“Fortunately, I worked alongside him for a while on screen before he retired, so when he left children weren’t left with an unfamiliar face.

“Getting the rights to ‘Sooty’ was a life-changing moment and another important step on this incredible journey I’ve been on.”

As well as putting bums on seats throughout the UK on tour, Richard, Sooty, Sweep and Sue are achieving bumper ratings on both ITV and CITV.

To ensure the famous puppets didn’t lose any of their charm, Richard includes some of their most famous party pieces – Sooty playing the xylophone and doing magic tricks to name but two.

“Just as his father did, Matthew gave me his props, script, and most importantly, his blessing and support. I never dreamt I’d be regarded as having the most famous hand in children’s TV. It is insured!”

z The Sooty Show is on in Galashiels on February 7 and Duns Volunteer Hall on February 8.