Ken Dodd Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains professional documents, recordings, photographs, programmes, and press cuttings relating to Ken Dodd.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Kenneth Arthur Dodd OBE was a comedian, singer and actor known for his live stand-up performances. Recognised by his distinctive buck teeth, a result of a cycling accident, and his wild hair, he was considered one of the last performers in the music hall tradition. His performances were renowned for their length and he entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1974 with a marathon performance at the Royal Court Liverpool lasting three hours, 30 minutes and six seconds.

Ken Dodd was born in Knotty Ash, Liverpool on 8 November 1927. His father bought him his first ventriloquist doll and he developed his routine performing in clubs and hotels around Liverpool and Birkenhead before meeting his agent David Forrester. He made his professional debut at the Empire theatre Nottingham in September 1954 as Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty, Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter. The following year he appeared at the Central Pier Blackpool and had gained top billing by 1958.

Dodd made his London debut in 1965 with a 42 week run at the Palladium. Throughout the 1960s he became a successful recording artist, best known for his signature song Happiness. He became a regular performer on radio and television, including the Royal Variety Performance and An Audience with Ken Dodd.

His act often included the Diddy Men, fantasy characters invented by Dodd and played by children in his live shows. Inspired by Knotty Ash the Diddy Men worked jam butty mines and black pudding plantations. His routines and jokes were rehearsed and scripted, and frequently relied on innuendo supported by his signature prop, a tickling stick: a red, white and blue feather duster.

In 1989 Ken Dodd was accused of tax evasion. He was acquitted and later worked the notoriety into his performances.

He was knighted in 2017 and died on 11 March 2018.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged into the following sections:

  • THM/354/1 - Biographical documents
  • THM/354/2 - Contracts
  • THM/354/3 - Programmes
  • THM/354/4 - Photographs
  • THM/354/5 - Press Cuttings
  • THM/354/6 - Diddy Men Artwork
  • THM/354/7 - Records

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of these files may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2002

Separated Material

The following items have been integrated into the Theatre and Performance collections:

  • S.216-2008 - Empire Glasgow poster
  • S.217-2008 - Palace Hull poster
  • S.218-2008 - Empire Theatre Newcastle poster
  • S.555-2018 - Richmond Theatre poster

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/info/archives.

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to Ken Dodd may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Personal Names