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Beauty contests with the Marina’s King

PUBLISHED: 15:16 13 August 2017

Great Yarmouth Marina Theatre: A competition winner from June 1959. In the background, The Neville Bishop Band.

Great Yarmouth Marina Theatre: A competition winner from June 1959. In the background, The Neville Bishop Band.

Archant

He was the King of the Marina – a man who stood head and shoulders above the biggest household names in the land... how we loved Neville Bishop.

Young Brenda Fairweather, who won a talent show in Great Yarmouth with Uncle Neville Biship at the Marina. Young Brenda Fairweather, who won a talent show in Great Yarmouth with Uncle Neville Biship at the Marina.

Never mind the big stars at the theatres - it was Neville who got the people of Norfolk, the rest of East Anglia and the whole country in the holiday mood when they arrived in GREAT Yarmouth.

Uncle Neville and Auntie Jean made holidays in Yarmouth so special for thousands of people... especially the children.

He ran talent shows for the children and the grown-ups, long before Opportunity Knocks! came along. He marched through the streets with his orchestra putting a smile on the faces of the holidaymakers.

Long queues would form outside the Marina to get a chance to enjoy his shows. He usually did three a day – the morning one was devoted to the children, followed by another one in the afternoon and at night. Oh, and there were two shows on a Sunday, one at 3pm and the other at 7.45pm. Now that was hard work.

WHAT A POPPET! �Cockney spiv� star comedian Arthur English, helped by resident bandleader Neville Bishop, crowns the winner of a Miss Payne's Poppet competition at the open-air Marina at Great Yarmouth, probably in the Fifties.
Pictures: MERCURY LIBRARY WHAT A POPPET! �Cockney spiv� star comedian Arthur English, helped by resident bandleader Neville Bishop, crowns the winner of a Miss Payne's Poppet competition at the open-air Marina at Great Yarmouth, probably in the Fifties. Pictures: MERCURY LIBRARY

While he laughed a lot, and could be far more entertaining than some of the big-time entertainers on the piers, Neville was also a talented musician and he made sure he always surrounded himself with top musicians, many of them from Norfolk and Suffolk.

He was described as one of Britain’s leading musicians who topped bills across the country and all over Europe. He fronted McNamara’s Band and also the Wolves.

Apart from the talent shows there were beauty contests, glamorous granny competitions and of course knobbly knees contests and the Marina was packed out for his shows, because not only was there fun, the music was first-class. These were top players.

I received a letter from Nikki Cleaver who lives at Nottingham who wonders if anyone may be able to help her solve a family mystery.

Neville Bishop and his Wolves were stalwarts at the Marina Amphitheatre in Yarmouth during the 1950s summer seasons. They were a Billy Cotton-style band who could clown around but also play “straight” music. Our photo dates from 1958 and Neville in a suit is standing next to the singer Neville Bishop and his Wolves were stalwarts at the Marina Amphitheatre in Yarmouth during the 1950s summer seasons. They were a Billy Cotton-style band who could clown around but also play “straight” music. Our photo dates from 1958 and Neville in a suit is standing next to the singer

When their cousin John (Colin) Fish died they found a picture in his belongings.

It was the one which says ‘Neville Bishop & His Gang’ and it was taken at the Marina in 1959.

Now they think that John is sitting in the middle of the front row holding a guitar.

“John was a private man and never mentioned before in a band so we are naturally very interested in this photograph,” said Nikki.

Is that John (Colin) Fish with the guitar in the middle of the front row? The picture was taken in 1959. Do you recognise him? Is that John (Colin) Fish with the guitar in the middle of the front row? The picture was taken in 1959. Do you recognise him?

“Can anyone shed any light on Neville Bishop & His Gang or confirm that it is in fact John Fish in the photograph?,” she asks

“If anyone has any memories of being in the band with John or anything else about him then we would love to hear from them.”

She can be reached at nikki.cleaver34@btinternet.com or at 34 Rossell Drive, Stapleford, Nottingham NG9 7EJ.

And if you have any special memories of Neville Bishop I would also love to hear from you too at derek.james2013@gmail.com

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