You are cordially invited to share in our memories of the Cannon and Ball Tribute Night

Award and Tribute Night

On Thursday 26th February 2009, The Variety Club threw a tribute dinner evening for our best loved double act, Cannon and Ball.

The evening was to recognise and honour them for the 45 years that they have been in show business together and for the many years of charity work and fund raising done by the pair over the years.

This page will be as much of a run down of the whole evening as I can remember with a few of my piccies from the evening thrown in.  Hope that you enjoy it all.

The evening was held at the home of the Bolton Wanderers, The Reebok Stadium, in Bolton.

Quite a few of us, as well as most of the celebs involved in the evening stayed at the hotel there as it was to be a late night, it was a lovely place, we all enjoyed it there.

The evening was to start between 7.30 and 8pm.  Those of us staying over got there early in the afternoon to get checked in and sort ourselves out so that we would have time to get ready and be comfortable in the place before the evening's events kicked off.

We had a clue that the celebs were staying in the same place when some of our friends arrived shortly after us and told us that they had just checked in at the same time as Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee.  A bit later on, more friends let us know that they had arrived and that they had just bumped into Tommy and his family.

Coming up to five o'clock, we went down to the bar, whilst having a drink and talking, we noticed that Bobby and Yvonne had arrived and were just getting out of the car.  He brought his bags through to the hotel and we saw him and Yvonne going upstairs past us in the glass lift.  It really felt as though the evening had started then when we were all there in the hotel.

Our little group waiting to go through to the event area

Our little group had arranged to meet downstairs at 7pm to ensure that we were all together to go through to the main event area, The Platinum Suite in the main area of the stadium. 

We had all been together in the bar area for about ten minutes when Tommy and his family came down.  He saw us and came over for  a chat.  He had in his hand a framed pencil sketch of himself and Bobby and told us the story behind it and that he had brought it for the auction that night to raise some more money for the Variety Club.  He was quite nervous and was buzzing around for the rest of the evening until the event began.

The event area looked lovely with it's decorations and shiny heart shaped balloons.  There was the top table where the guests of honour were to sit at the front of the room with a large TV screen at either side.  There were many tables, each seating ten people filling the rest of the room and eventually, we all got ourselves seated and waited for the evening to begin.

When the evening's events started, we were greeted by the M.C for the evening, Andy Ashworth.
Tommy and Bobby were introduced and came in to thunderous applause, a very warm welcome indeed.
Andy gave a short reading of Cannon and Ball's biography and explained what would be happening throughout the evening.  As we waited for dinner we were played a clip from the 1981 Children's Variety Performance.  Cannon and Ball were doing their "Tommy was once an opera singer" routine and we heard them sing "Together".  An emotional start to the proceedings.

We were told that each table would need a team captain to ensure that all of the envelopes on the table were filled in, correctly labelled and handed in for the raffle.  He explained that underneath the side plates of one person on each table would be a piece of paper with "It's You!" written on it.  Whoever had that paper underneath their plate had to stand up. . .

The room, overlooking the celebs' dinner table

Who ended up with that piece of paper?  Had to be me didn't it?
It was sooo embarrassing.  I stood up and looked over at Bob who was looking round the room, he saw me stand up and laughed and pointed at me, I shook my head and stood in absolute embarrassment until I was told what to do next.  Thankfully, there was a chance to get out of being the chosen one.

They were to play some music and count down.  We were to pass the paper around the table to our left and the person next to us had to stand up to receive it.  This went on until the music stopped and the countdown ended, when the music stopped, whoever had the paper was our team captain.  It was hilarious, the lower the countdown got, the faster we were throwing it around the table.  It was manic by the end.  As it eventually finished, my hubby J had the paper in his hand, I felt bad but at least it wasn't me, lol.  He did the job admirably though, ensured we had all done our envelopes, written the correct things on them and collected them in to put into the raffle.

We then all settled down to have our dinner.

Our two courses arrived and went and as the sweets were being dished out, we were played an old advert made by Tommy and Bobby in the early days.  The ad was for Lada Cars and it was funny to see after all these years.
Even funnier was the outtakes that we were shown afterwards.  They went on for a while and were like a little documentary which followed the lads throughout the day making the commercial.  Lovely to see something we hadn't seen before, interesting as well as hilarious.

There then followed the raffle draws and the auction in aid of The Variety Club.
There were some fantastic prizes being auctioned.  They varied from signed framed images of Cannon and Ball and a framed, signed original poster form the premier of Boys In Blue to and evening at your own home throwing a dinner party for 12 people all cooked and presented by a professional chef.  You could invite 8 people of your own choice and the last four members of the dinner party were to be made up on Bobby and Yvonne and Tommy and Hazel!  Such a fantastic prize.  Thousands were made for the charity, brilliant result.

Stu Francis

The guest speakers were then to come up one by one and give their tribute to Cannon and Ball.  They were given 3 -5 minutes each to pay their tributes as time was passing quickly, I think only one of them stuck to that time, lol.

First up was Stu Francis, most famous to anyone of my age from Crackerjack .

He explained that he had known Bob and Tom for many years and how that came to be.  Told all about the times when they were all starting out playing the clubs up North and how they all used to meet up and help each other out and about the tricks Bobby used to play on him.

He explained that he was lucky to be stood in the same room as them as wherever they went in the old days, he used to get thrown out, and most of the time, not of his own doing.

The tale he ended with was one about them all meeting up in a club after their gigs one night.  Stu was the last to arrive and the lads had set up a table with one of the legs unscrewed and filled it full of beer glasses.  They engineered it so that he brushed along the table causing it to collapse and all the glasses smash around the floor.

The rest of them laughed whilst he got kicked out.  Yet again, this had happened.  Half way down the road he heard someone shout, Bobby was following him.  He told Stu that he had cleared it with the owner to let him back in, all he had to do was to apologise.  He couldn't believe it, he had to apologise and it wasn't him who had done it in the first place! Watching Bobby and Tommy's reactions the whole way through was the highlight for me, you could see that they remembered these things and the memories were good ones.

When Stu had finished, the next person called up to talk about their experiences with Tom and Bob was the musician Brian Poole.

Brian Poole of The Tremeloes

I found Brian Poole's speech one of the most emotional of the evening, very genuine and very heartfelt.

Brian spoke of his admiration for Cannon and Ball and you could tell from the way that he spoke that he meant every single word that he said.

He told of a time when he was no longer working in "the business" and he took his children to the theatre where Cannon and Ball were working.  He took them to the stage door to catch the lads before the show and once there, they took time out to speak to them and during their conversation, Bobby told him that he should definitely be still working as a musician.  He explained that the way that Bob had spoken to him was convincing enough for him to give up what he was doing the very next day and go back to what he knew and loved and then went on to have numerous more successful years in the music business.

During the performance in the theatre that day, they stopped what they were doing and told the audience that there was a true star in the building and started a round of applause for Brian.  He has never forgotten the kindness and warmth that they showed him that day and he holds them very close to his heart. 
I enjoyed listening to his stories and could see that they felt the same way about him too.

Joe Longthorne

The next up onto the stage to say what he thought was Joe Longthorne.

Knowing that Joe has been very ill for the last number of years it was good to see him in the room and I was interested to hear what he would have to say as I knew him from around the same era as I remember most of Cannon and Ball's shows from.

Joe spoke at length about his feelings about the lads and I was watching Tommy and Bobby as he spoke.  It was obvious that they hold Joe in great affection and were very touched by everything that he had to say.

Bobby, Yvonne and Tommy listening to Joe's speech





Brotherhood Of Man were the next to pay tribute to the boys.  They could not be there in person but sent a recording on DVD, this was played on the screens at each side of the room.  They thanked Cannon and Ball for being a pleasure to work with over the years.  One of the last times they played together was just last year on the Great British Variety Tour and they said that wherever and whenever they played together, Cannon and Ball were always the stars of the show, lovely messages even from a distance.

Next in line was Jimmy Cricket!
Jimmy had everyone in absolute stitches.

Tommy having to dry his tears with a napkin after laughing so much with Yvonne and HazelWhat can I say about Jimmy Cricket's speech?

Well, we all waited eagerly to hear what Jimmy had to say about his time spent with Cannon and Ball and his feelings about them.

Jimmy hit that stage like a whirlwind and threw out so many gags that it was like a whole one of his shows wrapped up into ten minutes.

Everyone seemed slightly bemused at first but they laughed, and then they laughed some more and they laughed until they cried.  This may have been my favourite moment of the night, I just kept watching Tommy, he was in hysterics.  He laughed and he cried and he couldn't stop, he had to hide his face in a napkin to try to stop, it was amazing to see, no one knew what had hit them.

After the gags ended and we had heard what Jimmy's Mammy had had to say about Cannon and Ball in her latest letter to him, we found out that Jimmy holds Cannon and Ball in great esteem and it was plain to see that they think exactly the same about him.  He ended with a quick gag bringing his son up on stage and that was that, I think he left everyone a little shell-shocked, but in a good way, he was the talk of the evening.

The next guest speaker up had been a surprise guest for Bobby and Timmy that night, although he nearly wasn't!

Anthony Costa had gotten to know, love and respect Bobby and Tommy whilst in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here a few years ago.  When he had heard that this evening was happening for them he wanted to be involved.

He almost was not a surprise though.  Earlier on in the evening, as I mentioned at the top of the page that our little group all met in the bar, the surprise was almost blown.
If you remember, I mentioned that Tommy had come to speak to us all whilst we were sat in our little circle there.  He was facing us, telling us about the picture and the other things he had been up to and the fact that he wasn't too sure what to expect from the evening.

Anthony CostaIf you look at the picture of us all up there, you will see a door right to the immediate left of where we were sat.
Imagine this, Tommy is chatting away, telling us about what he had been up to and the door right opposite him opens, a man starts to walk through the door, realises who is standing in front of the door talking and slides quickly back through the door he had just stepped through. 
All a bit odd but as Tommy was in full flow, he didn't quite realise what had just happened.  That man walking through the door was Anthony Costa, who knew that his appearance there that evening was a surprise and had just walked slap bang into the man that the surprise was for!  Lol!
Thankfully, Tom didn't realise and the surprise was safe, Anthony came back through a little later when Tommy and his family has been taken through to the Platinum Suite.

When Anthony got up to speak he was straight to the point.  The only person to actually finish their speech within the allotted time.  He spoke of how he had always loved Cannon and Ball and was excited when the arrived in the jungle where he was.

He said that he took the opportunity whilst they were in there to spend time with Bob and Tom and get to know them and he is really happy that he did because he is now proud to be able to call them his friends.  A lovely sentiment and you could see that he was proud to have been able to have been up there talking about his heroes.  (And he bought one of the pictures in the auction and raised some money for charity while he was there too.)

Michael Starke speakingThe person up next, I think may have been a surprise also.
We had seen him in the hotel so we knew that he was there but he wasn't sat at the table at the front with the rest of the celebrities.  It was Michael Starke.

He was a very popular choice to go up to speak.  The crowd were very enthusiastic when he was announced, Bobby's sons, Darren and Rob got up and applauded for him whilst he got up to the stage.  I always loved him as Sinbad in Brookside and many now know him as Jerry from Coronation Street.

He spoke of working on The Royal, which was where he met Bobby who was making a guest appearance on the show.

He spoke of Bobby's down to Earth nature and his warmth and that he got the same reception from Tommy when he was introduced to him.  He sounded as if he admired in them, the very same thing that a lot if the rest of us do.

They have been at the height of heights but they have never lost that personal touch with people.  They still communicate with people from all walks of life and have no high opinions of themselves and this shines through in their dealings with people and reflects in the way that people regard them and have great affection for them.  A fitting tribute from Michael.

Paul Daniels

The penultimate speaker was magician and TV personality Paul Daniels.  He and his wife Debbie were there but only Paul was to speak.  Paul had also performed on the same bill as Cannon and Ball last Summer on The Great British Variety Tour.

Paul has known Bobby and Tommy for many years.  He too had TV shows on air around the times that theirs were shown.  They have played the same kinds of clubs over the years and their paths have crossed more times than can be mentioned so there is a lot of history between them.

He spoke about the two of them and he cracked a few gags and the night was rounding off nicely.  One of the gags he opened with was the one about them all being in digs in the early days and not having much to do so ended up having a partner swapping party.  They all threw their keys into a bowl and he got Debbie McGee whilst Bobby ended up with Tommy, lol.

As accustomed as he is to public speaking, it didn't take him too long to say what he wanted to get across and the night rolled on.

Johnny Casson

There was only one more speaker to come before we were to hear from the guests of honour themselves.  This was to be comedian Johnny Casson.

I personally had never seen Johnny Casson's act so didn't know what to expect but he was a funny man, made me giggle.

There was genuine affection for the man from Bobby and Tommy as he stood and spoke about them and cracked a few jokes as you can see from this picture.

Bob laughed as he started with a joke about the similarities between himself and Bobby.  They both do the same job, work in the same places and they have both been seeing Yvonne!  Lol!  The audience laughed, Yvonne laughed and Bobby laughed, it was a great way to round off the night of tributes.

We next heard form Paul Wild who organised the evening for Bobby and Tommy for The Variety Club Northwest.  He spoke for a few minutes and got Bobby and Tommy up to present them with their awards. 

Paul with Bob and Tom and their awardsAll that was left to do now was to hear from the men themselves.

The crowd were up on their feet cheering, it was after all, the reason for the evening, they had their award and we were now going to hear from them.

Tommy took to the mic.  He made a lovely speech and kept a straight face and carried on whilst Bobby was doing whatever it was he had decided to do behind him, lol.

Bob and Tom making their speeches





Bob said a few words after Tom had said his piece and as his sons Darren and Rob were whooping louder than anyone the guys got them both up on stage and they then said a few words about how proud they were to know and be around the greatest double act of all time.

Both Bob and Tom said how proud they were also of these two guys who also have their own act and love everything they do.

Rob and Darren saying how proud they are of their Dad.

It was a great night, everyone had enjoyed it and I think that Tommy and Bobby gained a great insight into the way that everyone really does feel about them.

They should be very proud that the way that they have conducted their lives and their careers has lead to them being loved by just about everyone who has ever met them, and millions of others too.


After the speeches were made and the night had officially come to an end, the lads spent a great amount of time talking to everyone in the room and signing things for fans and having photos taken with everyone who wanted them, thus displaying the characteristics which have lead to them to be such favourites with the public.

Bob and Brian Poole at our table before we left to go to the hotel bar.

We spent quite some time with Bob who came over to us for chats and photos. 

Tommy eventually gathered up his family and went through to the hotel, it was already turning into a very late night.  We sat around and talked for a while, I had a good old chat with Darren and we all agreed to try to get the room to empty by going through to the hotel bar.

There were still quite a lot of people in the event room when we left so I am sure there were plenty more photographs taken and stories told after we left them to it.

After we had been back in the hotel bar for a while Joe Longthorne and his party came through so we knew that it wouldn't be long before everyone else arrived also.

Slowly but surely everyone trickled through to the bar.

We heard Bobby arrive before we saw him, he was over the moon and in an extremely jovial mood.
He came down with Yvonne who ended up trying to sort out somewhere for Darren and Rob and their wives to stay as their taxi didn't arrive. 

The party carried on into the early hours, Bob kept coming to sit with us, he had us in hysterics watching him after a few drinkies.  Poor Devi had to be quick on her feet when they were walking to and from our table.  As he was talking to her, he kept bopping her in the face, she was laughing and he thought it was hilarious.

We decided at almost quarter to three that it was time to leave them all to it.  We said goodnight, Bob asked us all to stay and have another drink but as Andy rightly said, it was night for family and for them to all enjoy the recognition that Bob had gotten that night.  We wished them a good night and went off leaving them in full swing.

I hope that the whole family had a fantastic night and that it meant as much to them as it did to us, the fans, to see them finally get everything that they deserved.  Well done lads, hope to see you again very soon x

Bob, J and Smudge - Rock On!

A homage!  See Bob, this is what happens when you don't bother to wear your own braces!  ;)
All ohotos used on this page were taken by myself on the evening except the group shot belonging to Natalie, thanks for the use of that Nat x


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