26 October 1974 – Series Three (6)

Female ventriloquist Julie Craig. Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

Joining the familiar judging faces of Arthur Askey and Clifford Davis on the panel for heat six was record producer Alan A. Freeman.

The next seven acts to try to impress the judges and viewers alike were;

  • Barry Lee (vocalist)
  • Avril Karr (female vocalist)
  • Jess and the Gingerbread (country & western group)
  • Julie Craig (female ventriloquist)
  • Broughton & Williams (duo)
  • Walter Sleight (comedy / magician)
  • Macaulay’s (four-piece variety act)

After the scores from the judges were totalled the act booking their place in the All Winners Final, just two weeks later, were Hinckley-based Country and Western act, Jess and the Gingerbread (Gang) with a total of 103 points.

38 year-old lead singer Jess Owen, from Burbage, said “This could be the big breakthrough we have been working for.”  The group, who Jess had formed just a year earlier, were the only act to top 100 points on the show.  The other members were John Smart, Paul Gunton and Barney Peacock all from Rugby.

Female singer, Avril Karr, finished third just nine points behind with 94 points.

Julie Craig was just seven years old when she discovered her talent as a ventriloquist.  She started playing local charity shows where the contrast between her own sweet voice and the gruff voice of her puppet Johnnie amazed audiences.  She later added a cheeky chimp named Chico to her ventriloquist family.

When Les Cocks saw Julie’s act he immediately booked her to appear on New Faces and she gave a very polished and impressive three minute performance that resulted in her being offered a number bookings at top class cabaret venues.

Lincoln based magician Walter Sleight started his career in magic at the Theatre Royal in Cleethorpes in the 1930’s and was still performing well into his 80’s.  In 2001 he was devastated when his old box of magic tricks was stolen by children while he was performing at Lincoln pub.  The pre-war items were irreplaceable and the then 80-year old Walter said “They are what we call ‘classics’ and at today’s prices these tricks would run into hundred of pounds.”

In 2013 the Lincolnite made a beautiful short film of Walter and his magic which is available on You Tube and you can view it below.


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