Suffolk star Roy Hudd dies after short illness

Roy Hudd who has died at 83 with his first billing at the Finsbury Park Empire Picture: DAVID GARRAD

Roy Hudd who has died at 83 with his first billing at the Finsbury Park Empire Picture: DAVID GARRAD

Suffolk-based comedian, actor, writer and music hall expert Roy Hudd has died after a short illness.

Roy Hudd in character in Goodnight Mr Tom

Roy Hudd in character in Goodnight Mr Tom Picture: AARON WEIGHT - Credit: Archant

Roy, who lived just outside Stowmarket, was active until very recently continuing to perform on stage and on television. In 2018 he played Mr Tom in Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds’ production of Goodnight Mr Tom, last year he toured the UK in a production of Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance alongside Liza Goddard and Isla Blair and appeared in an episode of Casualty.

Hudd’s agent said today: “We are sad to announce the passing of the much-loved and amazingly talented Roy Hudd OBE. After a short illness, Roy passed away peacefully on the afternoon of Sunday March 15, with his wife Debbie at his side.”

He asked that the family’s privacy be respected.

Roy was the creator, writer and host of the long-running News Huddlines, Radio 2’s longest running radio show which he co-starred alongside June Whitfield from 1975 to 2001. Suffolk scriptwriter Alan Stafford, who worked with Roy on News Huddlines said: “My first big comedy success was becoming a commissioned writer on radio’s News Huddlines. Roy’s warm and jovial presence was a key part of that show’s success. He had a keen interest not only in music hall, but in comedy of all eras. And because he had that cheeky comic’s persona, when it came to topical satire he could get away with murder! No-one was safe – celebrities, politicians, the royal family. In the News Huddlines we saw the world through Roy’s eyes, and laughed good-naturedly at what a load of idiots we all are.

Roy Hudd who has died at the age of 83 Photo: Simon Harries

Roy Hudd who has died at the age of 83 Photo: Simon Harries - Credit: Picture: SIMON HARRIES

“Roy was always willing to share his love of comedy with others. I went and interviewed him for a couple of radio documentaries. And when I was researching that fine old variety sand-dancing act, Wilson, Keppel & Betty, he made his book and video collection freely available to me.

“And like many a comic, Roy made a fine straight actor – in particular, the Dennis Potter TV series Lipstick On Your Collar. There’s no shortage of comedians, and many of them are sensational. But there’s no-one quite like Roy. He was definitely a one-off!”

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Roy also made a name for himself as Archie Shuttleworth, the undertaker, in Coronation Street between 2002 and 2010. He joked that whenever his character re-appeared in the soap, the rest of the cast would get nervous because it meant that someone’s contract was not going to be renewed.

Hudd started out as a Red Coat at Butlin’s Clacton resort on the Essex coast in 1958 working alongside Sir Cliff Richard and Dave Allen. His early career as a stand-up comedian and a life-long love of variety led him to becoming an expert on the English Music Hall from its roots on Drury Lane through its Edwardian hey-day to its transformation into variety theatre in the 1930s and beyond.

Roy also had one of the largest private collections of music hall memorabilia including posters, photographs, and thousands of song-sheets. Hudd wrote several books on music hall and during the 1970s appeared in the popular BBC 1 show The Good Old Days.

He was the long-standing president of the British Music Hall Society, was a supporter of the Wilton’s Music Hall restoration project in London and even chose the Music Hall as his subject when he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind in 2014.

He also co-wrote and played the part of Bud Flanagan in the hugely successful West End musical Underneath the Arches.

In an interview with the EADT Roy said that the reason he had enjoyed such a long career and still relished performing was that he continued to be cast and made himself available for a wide variety of roles – everything from Broadchurch to Call The Midwife, Midsomer Murders and Holby City to stage work such as the lead role of Pseudolus in Stephen Sondheim’s Roman farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Aaron Weight for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, said: “Everyone at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is deeply saddened by the news that Roy Hudd has passed away. He was a huge advocate for the theatre, performing in many shows here over the years including his own show Roy Hudd’s Very Own Music Hall; as host for A Right Royal Revue and of course his wonderful performance in the title role in 2018’s Goodnight Mister Tom. A true legend of a performer and a shining example of kind heartedness, we will all miss him terribly. We send our thoughts and sympathies to his wife Debbie and the rest of his family.”

Meanwhile stars from the world of entertainment have been paying their tributes. Actor and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted: “Farewell to the wonderful Roy Hudd. A great comic and actor. One of those joyous people who feel like they’ve been with us forever.”

QI host Sandi Toksvig added: “Roy Hudd was a comic genius but more than that he was one of the nicest people in show business. At least the heavens will be rocking with laughter.”

Radio personality and writer Danny Baker said: “Bravo, Roy Hudd. I hope you can hear the applause thundering in your ears. What a turn. What an archive. What company. Now you can give Max Miller his hat back.”

Stage and television actor Samuel West tweeted: “Roy Hudd has left the stage, and all of us are poorer for it. An endlessly entertaining comic, a fabulous actor and one of the absolutely nicest people I ever had the privilege of working with.”

Comedy historian Robert Ross added: “Devastated to hear that the peerless Roy Hudd has gone. A gentle man of unfailing warmth, kindness, and enthusiasm. His passion for music hall and variety turns was only matched by his exhaustive knowledge. The world of comedy will forever salute him as a beloved titan.”

Writer, broadcaster and raconteur Gyles Brandreth said: “Roy Hudd’s death is so sad. He was such fun, so funny & so talented. Here’s hoping there’s a heaven where he can be reunited with old friends like June Whitfield & meet all his heroes like the great Dan Leno.”

Impressionist Rory Bremner observed: “The lovely Roy Hudd embodied a whole strand of the DNA of British comedy, from music hall and variety to pantomime and stand-up. A living museum, full of joy, humour and enthusiasm. A great life and a great loss.”

Roy was awarded an OBE in the 2004 New Year Honours List. In 1983, he was awarded the Society of West End Theatre Award as Best Actor in a Musical for his role in Underneath the Arches. He also received an honorary doctorate from Suffolk New College in 2007.

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