Drawing: Mick Hucknall

Autographed drawing of Mick Hucknall

Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall has a simply simple signature. The band’s lead singer and songwriter was described by Q magazine as the “the most prodigious voice this side of Motown”.

Formed in Manchester in 1985, the soul-influenced group has sold over 50 million albums, reaching their peak from 1989 to 1995. They have had ten songs in the Top 10 UK Singles Chart and five No 1 albums. ‘Stars’ (1991) is one of the best-selling albums in UK chart history. ‘Holding Back the Years’ and ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now’ reached number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Simply Red have won three Brit Awards with Mick winning Best British Male in 1993 and two Ivor Novello Awards, including Songwriter of the Year in 1992 and three Grammy nominations. After a five year hiatus, Simply Red reformed in 2015. Mick also produces wines from his base in Sicily under the label II Cantante’ (The Singer).

He signed his simply black sig on my drawing as he left Wogan House after the band played a cover of Otis Redding’s ‘The Dock of the Bay’ on Zoe Ball’s BBC Radio 2 show on 8 November last year, the same day they released their latest studio album ‘Blue Eyed Soul’.

Drawing: Jessica and Nelly Korda

Autographed drawing of golfers Nelly and Jessica Korda

American golfing sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda returned to the UK last month to participate in the Women’s British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland. Due to Covid-19 it was played without a crowd in attendance and Jessica had to withdraw at the last minute because of a non-coronavirus health issue. Both returned to the US and joined the field in the second major of the year, the ANA Inspirational on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, where Nelly narrowly missed winning her maiden major, finishing second equal after a three-way play-off with the eventual winner, Miriam Lee from South Korea and Canada’s Brooke Henderson. It did however move Nelly up to No 2 in the world rankings.

The daughters of Czech tennis Grand Slam winner Petr Korda, Jessica (27) turned professional in 2011 with Nelly (22) joining her on the LPGA tour six years later. Jessica, who has finished in the top ten in all five majors, has won five LGPA tournaments and Nelly has collected three titles. Both were members of the 2019 US Solheim Cup team.

I sent this sketch to Jessica and Nelly at Royal Troon and was delighted to receive it, signed by both. During the pandemic very few items have been coming back so I was very surprised and especially pleased when the mailman delivered this last week.

Drawing: Pam Ayres

Autographed drawing of poet Pam Ayres

“Pam Ayres is absolutely essential to British humour, reminding us all to be tickled by the small joys and ridiculousness of everyday life,” wrote the Daily Mail in 2018. Considered one of England’s living treasures, the poet, comedian and songwriter was inspired by Bob Dylan to write poetry based on simple everyday subject matter.

Her idiosyncratic delivery is enhanced by a distinctive North Berkshire accent. She is one of the few authors who has had books in the Sunday Times bestseller charts in almost every decade since the 1970’s. In 2004 she received an MBE from the Queen.

Pam was a guest on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 show last September, where she signed my sketch for me.

Drawing: Shakespears Sister

Autographed drawing of musicians Shakespears Sister

It took a few attempts to override spellcheck’s efforts to correct my typing of ‘Shakespears Sister’, but I prevailed, enhanching my skills as a serial misspeller. The group’s name was taken from The Smith’s song ‘Shakespeare’s Sister’, which was based on a 1928 Virginia Woolf essay and lecture. Delving further, it was apparently misspelt – dropping the final ‘e’ – in a woodcut artwork for the group’s first single sleeve. The apostrophe ‘subsequently surrendered to pop music.’

Anyway, after that rambling intro and a 26 year gap, Shakespears Sister reunited and played at the London Palladium last November as part of the ‘Ride Again Tour’ tour to support their compilation album ‘Singles Party’ and EP ‘Ride Again’. Formed in 1988, initially as a solo act by Irish singer-songwriter and former member of Bananarama, Siobhan Fahey, Shakespears Sister became a duet a year later when Siobhan was joined by American musician Marcella Detroit. Success and accolades followed with two Top 10 albums and a string of hits, including ‘Stay’ which, true to its meaning, stayed at No 1 on the singles chart for eight weeks, winning a 1992 Brit Award for Video of the Year. It also reached the Top 5 in the US. Their second studio album ‘Hormonally Yours’ achieved double platinum in the UK, spending 55 weeks on the charts with three Top 20 singles. It received the 1993 Ivor Novello Award. In May 2019 the duo performed ‘Stay’ on the Graham Norton Show, their first TV performance since 1993.

Siobhan and Marcella both kindly signed my sketch at the London Palladium after their 5 November performance.

Drawing: Fay Ripley

Autographed drawing of actress Fay Ripley

British actress Fay Ripley’s breakthrough role was Jenny Gifford in Granada Television’s production for the ITV network’s award-winning comedy-drama COLD FEET. It’s one of my favourite TV shows, following three couples experiencing the ups-and-downs of romance. The six core cast members were James Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale (Adam and Rachel), Hermione Norris and Robert Bathurst (Karen and David) and Fay and John Thomson (Jenny and Pete).

The nine series includes 60 episodes, beginning with the pilot in early 1997. Fay was part of the main cast through to 2003, guest starring during series five, when she divorced Pete and moved to New York with their son. Fay returned for the second run, starting in September 2016 until February this year. COLD FEET has won 20 major awards, including the BAFTA for Best Drama Series and the National Television Award for Most Popular Comedy Programme. The series also received an International Emmy Award nomination.

Fay is the only cast member to be nominated for a BAFTA Award. She said of her character, “Jenny’s very ballsy and speaks her mind, but she’s more sensitive than people than people give her credit for. She’s seen as very hard, but I don’t think she is – it’s just that she won’t show her vulnerability to everyone.”

Fay signed my sketch at Wogan House after appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio Two show in January this year.

Sam Tutty in Dear Evan Hansen

Autographed drawing of Sam Tutty in Dear Evan Hansen at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Twenty-one year old Sam Tutty made his West End debut late last year to rave reviews. Playing the title character in the London run of the Broadway musical sensation DEAR EVEN HANSEN, Sam, a recent graduate from the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, plays a teenager with social anxiety. DEAR EVAN HANSEN was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre in the Winter of 2016. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning six.

The story of teenage isolation has provided and encouraged open dialogue about its themes of mental illness and youth suicide. Evan Hansen is assigned by his therapist to write daily letters to himself about why every day will be good, which becomes the catalyst for the plot-hence the title DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

It transferred to London’s Noel Coward Theatre with previews beginning in October 2019, before opening on 19 November. “It captures the agonies of youth, allows the songs to grow out of the action and boasts a great role, here memorably taken by Sam Tutty for its lead actor,” wrote the Guardian’s veteran critic Michael Billington.

Sam had stiff competition for the lead role during auditions-competing against 8,000 other aspirants. After 13 callbacks he was offered the alternate Evan Hansen before finally securing the lead. He has since won the WhatsOnStage Award for his performance and is nominated for an Oliver, which was due to be presented at the Royal Albert Hall in April, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus. An announcement of the winners is expected this Autumn.

Sam signed my sketch at the Noel Coward stage door in January this year prior the shutdown of the production due to the pandemic, but is due to reopen “as early as practical” in 2021.

Drawing: Nadia Comaneci

Autographd montage drawing of gymnast Nadia Comaneci

One of the world’s best-known gymnasts, Romanian Nadia Comaneci won five Olympic gold medals, all in individual events. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics the fourteen-year-old Nadia became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 score, a feat thought unobtainable. After performing on the uneven bars the scoreboard only allowed three digits and was displayed as 1.00 until it was announced she had scored the perfect 10. She went on to achieve a further six perfect 10’s at that Summer Olympiad, three on the uneven bars and three on the balance beam.

Four years later at the Moscow Olympics, Nadia won another two golds for the balance beam and floor exercise. She has won a total of nine Olympic medals, collecting a silver and a bronze in Montreal and a silver in Moscow. Nadia also won two World Championship and World Cup gold medals and nine European Championship titles.

Since the early 1990s Nadia has lived in Oklahoma, where she and her husband American gold-medalist Bart Conner operate a Gymnastic Academy. I sent Nadia a sketch a few years ago, which came back signed, but damaged in the post so I sent another smaller drawing last year which arrived back this weekend.

Autographd montage drawing of gymnast Nadia Comaneci

Drawing: Sir George Benjamin

Autographed drawing of composer Sir George Benjamin

One of Britain’s greatest living classical composer-conductors, Sir George Benjamin celebrated his 60th birthday leading the Philharmonia Orchestra in A DUET AND A DREAM at London’s Royal Festival Hall in early March this year. From composing at the age of seven Sir George has become one of today’s most prominent composers, conductors, pianists and music teachers, regularly appearing with some of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles. Sir George taught composition at The Royal College of Music for sixteen years becoming the first Prince Consort Professor of Composition before succeeding Sir Harrison Birtwistle as the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at Kings College London in 2001. The recipient of numerous international accolades, Sir George’s honours include the Commandeer de l’Ordre des Arts des Lettres and a Knighthood.

He kindly signed my sketch at the RFH after one of the Southbank venue’s last performances before it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. All concerts have been cancelled until December this year.

Drawings: Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson

Autographed drawing of cricketer Stuart BroadAutogrpahed drawing of cricketer Jimmy Anderson

Right-arm England seamer Stuart Broad joined fellow countryman and pace bowler James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson in the 500 Test Wickets club yesterday, dismissing West Indian opening batsman Kraig Braithwaite on the last day of the third and final test at Manchester’s crowdless, covid-secure Old Trafford stadium. It spearheaded the hosts impressive 269 run win and secured a 2-1 series victory. Stuart, in his 140th test was not only the Player of the Match with bowling figures of 6/31 and 4/36 and a rapid-fire first innings 62 off 45 deliveries, but he was also named Player of the Series. He is only the second English bowler behind Jimmy to reach such a milestone and joins an elite group of only seven cricketers who have taken over 500 test wickets.

In a nice piece of symmetry, Jimmy’s 500th wicket was also the same batsman, on the second day of the Third Test against the West Indies at Lords in September 2017, in his 129th test match. Stuart and Jimmy are presently the most successful fast bowling pair in world cricket, their credentials with the red ball are unmatched. Jimmy’s 589 test wickets from 153 matches are the most by any fast bowler and places him fourth on the all-time wicket-taking list behind Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Australia’s Shane Warne (708) and India’s Anul Kimble (619) but ahead of Australian Glen McGrath (563), Courtney Walsh (519) from the West Indies and now Stuart (501).

He signed my drawing at the Headingly Cricket Ground in Leeds in August last year during the Ashes series against Australia. Stuart signed his sketch at the Oval on the last day of the fifth and final test against India in September 2018.

Drawing: Olivia de Havilland

Drawing of actress Olivia de Havilland

One of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Dame Olivia de Havilland passed away peacefully at her home in Paris on Saturday, just a few weeks after her 104th Birthday. Her career spanned five decades, from 1935-1988, including 49 films. At the time of her death she was the oldest living performer to have won an Oscar.

Dame Olivia was renowned for playing strong, beguiling characters in difficult circumstances. The first of her Academy Award nominations, was for Best Supporting Actress, as Melanie Hamilton in the 1939 classic GONE WITH THE WIND. She won the Best Actress Oscar twice, the first for her performance as WW II fire warden Josephine ‘Jody’ Norris in TO EACH HIS OWN (1946) and her second, three years later as Catherine Sloper, a women who is controlled by her wealthy father and betrayed by her greedy lover in William Wyler’s THE HERIESS. She also won a Golden Globe for the role.

Dame Olivia continued to act until the late 1980’s winning her second Golden Globe Award in 1986 for ANASTASIA:THE MYSTERY OF ANNA. She also featured on the stage, appearing three times on Broadway, ROMEO AND JULIET (1951), CANDIDA (1952) and A GIFT OF TIME (1962). In 2017 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire, the oldest recipient of the honour.

Last year I sent this sketch to Dame Olivia with a signature request, but it was returned with the attached letter, which is self explanatory.

RIP Dame Olivia.

Letter from actress Olivia de Havilland