Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Alan Jubb: Photographer

Feature from 2021

Alan with his camera

Elaine Paige
Alan Jubb was quite an amazing man. Throughout his working life he woke at 4am, toiled away in the family bakery in Ashton-under-Lyne and what little spare time he had was spent performing on stage with various local amateur operatic societies including New Mills, Romiley and course Ashton.

He liked baking, it was his life, but his real love was the stage, especially musical theatre and comedy. Not only did he have starring roles in many musicals such as Guys and Dolls and Me and My Girl, he also directed shows and put his artistic talents to good use by designing and painting scenery.

The weekends though, were a different matter altogether. His love of musical theatre took him to London as often as he could, or closer venues when restricted by time. He was a keen amateur photographer too, taking his trusty camera with him wherever he went.

Over time he became a familiar face to many of the stars of the day, and when he got a colour camera it made him stand out. Many of the press photographers were still using black and white, so the stars wanted Alan. He was invited backstage into the dressing rooms and in special cases, the homes of the famous performers, where he took photographs that he kept and treasured.

The extent of these friendships was largely unknown until the sad day that Alan had to move into a care home. It was then his family discovered thousands of photographs, autographs and letters from some of the top stars of the period.

He kept albums, lots of albums, all categorised and meticulously set out in his wardrobes at home, and to flick through these felt like an honour, and a glimpse into the life he lived outside of the bakery.

He had dozens of letters from many stars including Ken Dodd, discussing comedy and various shows, Deborah Kerr, star of the The King and I musical, Alma Cogan and Bruce Forsyth. This was not just typical fanmail, these were personal letters.

Bruce Forsyth invited him down to London to visit his home, got him tickets to shows and even took him to shows in his car. Bruce's first wife Penny also wrote to Alan along with Sir John Mills, Elaine Paige (see note at end) and many others. Ruth Madoc even visited him at home in the bakery.

From his photographic hobby spawned love of autographs, and the majority of his photographs were signed by the stars. Some were standard publicity stills from the likes of Norman Wisdom, Tommy Cooper, Terry-Thomas, Sophia Loren and Margot Fontaine, others were his own photographs, taken in dressing rooms, private homes or outside theatres.

His albums cover the 1940s through to the 80s and many of the people and acts have long since been forgotten. Anyone remember Michelle Monet, the girl in the fish bowl?

Amongst these treasures were, of course, many Morecambe and Wise images dating from the 50s through to the 80s. Some have been grabbed already (by Gary Morecambe) and included in various books, others remained hidden until recently. Alan travelled up to Morecambe to meet Gary at the Winter Gardens theatre to show him some of his treasured photos. Sadly, Alan was not credited with the images, including some really nice ones of the pair with Billy Dainty in drag.

Alan's friendship with the stars was mutual. Upon walking along Blackpool prom one day, a man wearing sunglasses stopped Alan and spoke. "Hello Alan, you don’t recognise me with these sunglasses on do you?" He continued on… "it's Ernie, Ernie Wise!"

Alan donated all of his Morecambe and Wise photographs to our archives, and his remaining huge collection was auctioned in December 2019. Some lucky buyer got a great collection, and talking of luck, we found all of the negatives that are now safe as well.

It was a real honour to view these albums, to review someone's life in photographs and to see the rare images and autographs in person. I spent many a night going through the albums, trying to identify people, and being amazed at how young some of the stars looked.

How then, you may think, did we find out about this? Well, that is easy to answer. I will be privileged to by marrying Alan's niece in 2021, so you could say I am part of the family.

On a sad note, Alan passed away in 2020 and so strong were his connections with the show business world, Elaine Paige paid tribute to him on her Sunday radio show. Listen to the clip below.

For glimpses of Alan’s photographs, visit our Gallery page.

© 2021

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