Suffolk's Mr Entertainment, Barry Dye, celebrates 50 years in showbusiness
- Credit: Paul Geater
Suffolk's "Mr Entertainment" is celebrating 50 years in showbusiness this month with a weekend of charity events at the Orwell Hotel in Felixstowe.
Ipswich-based Barry Dye became a full-time entertainment agent in early 1972 - and has worked with some of the biggest names in showbusiness.
He has worked with great showbusiness figures including Bob Monkhouse, Paul Daniels and Shakin Stevens. He is credited with discovering Shane Richie and helped lead the team that brought Tina Turner to Portman Road in 1990 - the first major concert at the football club.
Barry started his life in entertainment as a drummer in The Consorts, a band formed in 1961 at Eye Grammar School.
He remembers: "We started playing at school events, then got a bit of a name and started playing at halls in the Eye and Diss area - sometimes as far away as Norwich and Ipswich."
One of the venues they regularly played was the International Club in Leiston - which had a bit of a reputation in the mid-60s.
"You had the construction workers building the first Sizewell power station, the US servicemen from Bentwaters and lots of alcohol on a weekend night. It could get a bit volatile! But we played there regularly."
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The Consorts broke up in the mid-60s and Barry joined The Sonics - initially as a stop-gap drummer. "I was about five years younger than the rest of the group but we got on really well and I liked playing for them so I just stayed."
He also filled in as a drummer for the band Country Fever - which led to him meeting recording executives and getting session work in London.
But it was meeting legendary Ipswich First Floor Club owner Ken Bean that changed his life. The Sonics played at the Tacket Street venue and Barry started booking acts for the club - and other venues.
He said: "The manager of the Sporting Farmer (which later became the Drum and Monkey in Princes Street) did some work at the club and asked me to book some acts for him.
"I applied for my agent's licence from the council in early 1972 and it all carried on from there."
He took redundancy from his day job at Cranes to go full-time into showbusiness.
Many of the television stars of the 70s and 80s also appeared in clubs in places like Ipswich - Barry also brought Little and Large, Des O'Connor and Lenny Henry to the town.
He discovered Shane Richie, who was performing at Pontins in the early 1980s, and helped set him on the road to stardom with a six-month residency on Jersey.
Shane was soon spotted by television executives and has enjoyed a hugely successful career as both an all-around entertainer and as Alfie Moon in Eastenders for many years. But he remains very close to the man who set him on the road to stardom.
When he was at school his ambition was to become a pilot - but that dream ended when he failed his maths O level. However it didn't stop him taking his private pilot's licence and buying a quarter share in a light aircraft based at Ipswich.
Shortly after he gained his pilot's licence he had to travel to Berwick on Tweed where he arranged entertainment for a holiday park. He remembered: "I decided to fly there. The landing strip was pretty rough with pylons at one end and trees at the other - the grass runway was pretty rough too.
"I had to do a low flight first to see the best landing strip and then bring it down between the pylons and trees - quite something for a new pilot."
And it isn't just the world of entertainment where Barry has featured so strongly - he helped persuade Ipswich Town to become one of the first football clubs in the country to bring in executive boxes and matchday hospitality.
He organised a meeting with club officials, Bobby Robson and marketing expert Jonathan Crisp and persuaded the club that hospitality packages were vital for the future.
Barry's career will be marked at Felixstowe's Orwell Hotel on the weekend of April 9 and 10.
On the Saturday evening there will be a dinner dance featuring some of the entertainers he has worked with. There will also be video messages from some of "his" stars including Shane Richie who is unable to come to the event.
On the Sunday afternoon there will be a five-hour jam session from noon until 5pm - musicians can come along and take part.
Both events will raise money for pancreatic cancer research in memory of Les Bones, a friend of Barry who died from the disease in 2020.
A few tickets for the dinner dance are still available from Barry who can be contacted on 07831-700799 or Barrydye@aol.com while the Sunday afternoon session will be free - but there will be collection buckets for the charity.