Hands up who knows what oofle dust is? For those of you whose hands remain firmly not up, oofle dust is a magic powder used by a young ursine magician called Sooty. Sooty presented a magic show, along with his friend and co-star Sweep, however the words to accompany the sprinkling of oofle dust, ‘izzy wizzy let’s get busy’ were uttered by a human called Harry Corbett. Sooty was born in Blackpool in 1948 and first appeared on TV in 1952. His career as a magician, TV, stage and film star has continued in various forms ever since and he and his friends are touring this year in Sooty’s Magic Show.
In case you haven’t come across Sooty and his entourage, I had better explain. Harry Corbett was on holiday in Blackpool with his family in 1948 and bought a glove puppet from a shop on the North Pier for his son Matthew. However, it wasn’t Matthew but Harry who developed the character of Sooty. Harry himself is an interesting character – if you’ve ever had fish and chips from Harry Ramsden’s restaurant you’ll know that the original fish and chip restaurant was in Guisely in Yorkshire, and its owner was the eponymous Harry… who was the brother of Harry Corbett’s mother. Harry C. used to play the piano to the fish and chip eaters of Yorkshire, it seems he was a born entertainer!
He developed a puppet show with Sooty (né Teddy) and soon the magician bear was on TV – his nose and ears were coloured with soot so he showed up on the black and white sets. Sooty never speaks – only to Harry, and later when he retired, to Matthew his son who took over. His companion Sweep does ‘speak’ or rather squeak, and together they get up to as much mischief as magic.
Sooty’s shows have evolved over the years and various other animal characters have joined the company, most notably Soo a panda. He appeared first on a Saturday show before having his own series which ran on TV from 1955 to 1992. However other Sooty shows have continued up to the present. Each episode ended with the famous lines, Bye bye everybody, bye bye” which along with izzy wizzy became a very well known catchphrase.
Here’s a link to more about Sooty, and you can buy your own magic bear here too!