BELIEVE it or not last year saw everyone’s favourite bear Sooty celebrate his 70th birthday. This spring, not one but two performances of Sooty’s Magic Show, are coming to the Regent Centre in Christchurch. Leisure Live caught up with Richard Cadell, Sooty’s pal of 20 years, to find out more...

“This is Sooty doing what he does best – magic. So the audience can expect to be saying “Izzy whizzy let’s get busy” a great deal! Sooty will be performing some amazing tricks including sawing a lady in half, floating a child from the audience and making it snow! Sweep will be getting in the way with his own disastrous magic tricks most of which revolve around sausages,” says Richard.

You will be joined on the tour by special guests, circus stars Michael Jordan and Fantasie De La Nuit. What is their role in the show?

“Michael Jordan is an amazing circus artist and a fabulous magician. So with Sooty’s help he will be performing some large-scale Las Vegas style illusions along with some incredible juggling and circus tricks. Fantasie De La Nuit will allow Sooty and Sweep to perform some incredible tricks using the magic of ultraviolet light. It has to be seen to be believed.”

It is an extensive tour – 48 dates across four months – are live theatre performances what you and Sooty enjoy doing the most?

“Performing live is what we love most. Of course, making the television show is a lot of fun but Sooty has always been at his best in front of a live audience where he can make not only the children laugh, but all the adults too. Plus after each performance there is a chance for everybody to meet Sooty and it’s always such a pleasure to meet fans old and new!”

2018 saw Sooty celebrate his 70th birthday. This included a huge birthday celebration on Blackpool Pier, Sooty’s birthplace. What was it like having Sooty’s biggest fans and best friends all in one place to celebrate on that day?

“It was absolutely amazing and overwhelming, actually. There is so much love for this little bear. He has been at the heart of so many people’s childhoods over the last 70 years. Over 1500 people turned up to celebrate – every age and generation. It just felt like one huge family.”

Do you have a personal highlight of the 2018 70th birthday year?

“The last 20 years have flown by - I’ve just had a ball. It really was a life-changer for me and I have loved every second of it. I feel honoured and privileged to be trusted with such an iconic and well-loved character. There have been so many highlights, but I think the most humbling thing is to see the power that Sooty has to bring hope and happiness to those less privileged than ourselves. We have raised significant funds for charities and we have made a real difference to certain people’s lives. That is one element that I never expected, and it has been wonderful to see Sooty make a difference.”

What do you think is the secret to Sooty’s longevity?

“Simplicity. After all he is a teddy bear and most children receive a teddy bear as their first ever toy so it’s very easy to see why children fall in love with Sooty very quickly. And now of course it’s the grandparents that are introducing their grandchildren to the same little teddy bear that made them laugh also. And it hasn’t changed. I’m still performing the same routines that Harry Corbett performed 70 years ago, and they still make children scream with laughter. In this ever-changing world I think people find it very reassuring that some things remain the same.”

* Sooty’s Magic Show is at the Regent Centre on Saturday, May 11 at 11am and 2.30pm.