IAN HART: Alma rightly gets her recognition

Ian Hart
Ian Hart

On Friday, and sadly a month short of the 51st anniversary of her death, Alma Cogan had her blue plaque unveiled at her former home in Lansdowne Road, Worthing, by her close friend and showbusiness legend Lionel Blair, watched by scores and scores of people.

It marked the culmination of a lot of a hard work, and a real team effort, from Geoff Bowden from the British Musical Hall Society, and that great local organisation, The Worthing Society.

Having read up on Alma, and listened to the speeches last Friday, she was a bona fide big star who, had it not been for her premature death at the age of 36, would have been destined to take her career to the next level.

Lionel Bart wrote the part of Nancy in Oliver! specifically for her – a film that was turned into an Oscar-winning Hollywood blockbuster two years after her death. Had she lived and played that part on screen, with a possible Oscar nomination/win to follow, where would that have put her in the Tinseltown pecking order?

Lionel, who was brought down to the ceremony courtesy of Lib Dichello at Arrow, spoke with huge affection about his friend, and despite it being more than half a century since her passing you could see what she meant to him and all the people who took the time and trouble to turn up – and, of course, many thanks to Alan and Joanne Bryden, the current owners of the house, for allowing the plaque to be erected.

So, that’s Alma’s blue plaque sorted out, so what next?

Personally, I’d like to see some recognition for Angela Barnwell, Worthing’s very own teenage Olympic swimmer from the 1950s, who, like Alma, fell victim to cancer at a young age. She was bought up in Orchard Avenue and learned to swim at Heene Baths, so either the house in Tarring or the new development at the bottom of Heene Road when its finished are both options. Hopefully another blue plaque ceremony won’t be far off.