FAce to face with Ken Jackson

In her latest Face to Face interview KAREN BETHELL talks to Sheringham pensioner Ken Jackson, whose search for stardom has seen him audition as a singer for TV shows including Britain's Got Talent and Britain's Best Dish, and, in 2006, reach the "boot camp" stage of the X-Factor.

In her latest Face to Face interview KAREN BETHELL talks to Sheringham pensioner Ken Jackson, whose search for stardom has seen him audition as a singer for TV shows including Britain's Got Talent and Britain's Best Dish, and, in 2006, reach the "boot camp" stage of the X-Factor.

Now 81, Ken had a difficult start in life. Born weighing little more than a bag of sugar, he spent his first few weeks being fed with a medicine dropper and sleeping in the hearth for warmth. Brittle bone disease saw him spend the following 14 years in and out of hospital, but, after taking up boxing and judo, he managed to finish school and took his first job in an iron foundry.


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A first brush with show business saw a 7-year-old Ken perform on stage with a ventriloquist's dummy and, bitten by the performing bug, he went on to travel Nottingham, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, entertaining soldiers with a wartime concert party.

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Called up at 18, he joined the army catering corps and, after being demobbed in 1948, Ken met the love of his life, future wife Gladys, at Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire.

Ken worked as a baker and confectioner until 1955 and, after spells as a picture framer and a car component designer and manufacturer, he moved to Sheringham with Gladys and their 3 children in 1961, opening a plastics factory at the town's Oddfellows Hall.

Following spells as a chef at a number of north Norfolk hotels, Ken worked in the aerospace industry until he retired and, after Gladys died two years ago, he fulfilled a lifelong ambition to travel, touring Australia and the US.

Ken, who is currently waiting to hear whether his recipe for a 3-course meal has been chosen for the ITV food show Britain's Best Dish, now spends his time painting, woodcarving, and writing poetry. He also makes his own natural arthritis remedy.

Where do you go to unwind?

To my computer to write, whether it is poetry, song lyrics or articles for a fortnightly nostalgia feature for the Nottingham Evening Post. I wrote my first poem at the age of 7 and put it in the front window with a money box to raise cash for the war effort. I've since written hundreds and my poems have been published as part of 30 anthologies.

What is the one thing you would save if your house was on fire?

My photographs, because they represent a lifetime of memories.

What is your favourite Norfolk building?

Norwich Cathedral, because it is a triumph of technology and architecture that was built in a time when people had to use quite primitive tools.

What would you change about north Norfolk?

Nothing - it is a great place to be.

What makes you angry?

Incompetence and people who say "I can't do that". I think anybody can do anything they want to if believe in themselves.

What is your greatest achievement?

I worked on the design and construction of a house in Hyde Park, London, for an Indian diamond merchant and turned it into something that was super-modern and more James Bond than James Bond.

Whom do you most admire?

Sir Laurence Olivier, because he was a fantastic actor and a lovely person.

Who or what is the love of your life?

My wife Gladys, because she overcame so much. She was generous and unselfish and, even though her right arm was paralysed, she achieved an enormous amount. I miss her and talk to her every day.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

Book: Lord of the Rings, film: Dr Zhivago and TV programme, The Saint.

What is the one thing you would change about yourself?

My attitude to money - if I hadn't spent it all I'd be a millionaire, but I just can't keep it.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who made people laugh.

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