Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Our Little Clown is out and about

Partly based on Varney’s autobiography The Little Clown (1990) this new title has been published to accompany the 2016 exhibition at Fairlynch Museum. 

Our Little Clown follows Varney’s upbringing in London’s Canning Town and his early introduction to show business. A self-taught musician, at the age of 15 he was entertaining audiences in East End working-men’s clubs, playing the piano, piano-accordion and singing. 

World War Two saw him initially working in factories before he joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). Later, along with the likes of Harry Secombe, Eric Sykes and Spike Milligan he joined the Stars in Battledress, entertaining the troops. His post-war career took off as he developed his skills as a comedian, appearing on the West End stage and topping the bill in music hall. Then came his success in shows like The Rag Trade and On the Buses. 

Varney’s talent as a straight actor is seen in his tragicomic performance as failed drag artist ‘Sherry’ Sheridan in the play and film The Best Pair of Legs in the Business: he described this as ‘the biggest gamble’ of his career. 

Our Little Clown also covers Varney’s talents as an artist and as a writer and ends with his retirement to Devon, where he was described as ‘Budleigh Salterton’s adopted son’. 

48 pages
82 illustrations; approx. 50 in colour
With a foreword by Reg Varney’s daughter Jeanne Marley
Price: £5.00 (£4.99 at the museum)
Available at The Card Shop Too, High Street, Budleigh Salterton  Tel: 01395 446767. 

Raising money for charity: profits are being divided between Fairlynch Museum and the British Heart Foundation. 

Author Michael Downes is a Trustee of Fairlynch Museum. His previous publications have included academic studies of 16th French literature; Oundle’s War – a survey of the impact of WW2 on the Northamptonshire town, and The Scientist in The Cottage – a biography of the Victorian physician, geologist and marine sponge expert Henry Carter FRS. He also recently published a new edition of the popular The Budleigh Salterton Railway. He lives in Budleigh Salterton with his wife and two Bengal cats.    

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