THE unveiling of the Victoria Wood statue was a moving and marvellous occasion for the comedian's friends, family and fans who packed Bury's Library Gardens on Friday afternoon.

The sun shone as the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band entertained the crowds beforehand with a selection of Victoria's songs.

"In our family we were brought up not to show emotions but I do think its absolutely marvellous," said Chris Foote Wood, Victoria's brother, the initiator of the project.

"It has been long and complicated, and there's been a lot of obstacles in the way. I thought it could be done in a year but it's taken three years, but better late than never.

"I guarantee it will have the same effect on Bury as the statue of Eric Morecambe has in Morecambe Bay."

In fact Graham Ibbeson, the sculptor of Victoria's statue, was also responsible for the celebrated statue of Eric Morecambe.

Among the eager fans who attended the ceremony was Sue McMullen, 75, of Brandlesholme.

"I absolutely love Victoria. She was so funny and observant."

Linda Roberts, 62, had travelled from Wythenshawe for the unveiling.

"I heard about it on the radio and I just had to come. Victoria is the best comedian I could ever think of."

"I'm here because I love her," said Kath Parkinson, 60, of Unsworth.

Bury's new mayor, Cllr Trevor Holt, was delighted that one of his first duties was to attend the unveiling.

"I don't know anyone who doesn't think she's fantastic, and I'm honoured to be here," he said.

The statue was a partnership between Victoria's family and literary estate and Bury Council, which Mr Foote Wood thanked profusely.

Tony Trehy, Bury's arts and museums manager, said it was a brilliant day for the town.

Leader of Bury Council, Cllr Rishi Shori, said the people of Bury would take the statue to their hearts.

He said: "I was passing this site the other day and a lady stopped me to ask what was going on here. I told her about Victoria's statue and she said with real warmth ‘Oh good, Victoria was one of ours’. That warmth is something Victoria created universally and she was one of ours.

"She is the favourite of millions of TV viewers and her talents as playwright, stand up comedian, actress, writer and singer songwriter earned her many awards throughout her life and it began here in Bury."

In his speech, Mr Foote Wood said: "When Victoria died at the tragically early age of 62 at the height of her powers, I was consoled by the fact that she left us a great legacy of performance which we can see on video and television.

"But I wanted to see something permanent, something solid to remind us all of her presence. From the start I wanted this statue to belong to all you fantastic Victoria Wood fans so it's incredible and very special that we've been able to do this through a crowd funding appeal.

"Every donation has been gratefully accepted and helped us on our way to achieving this beautiful sculpture in honour of Victoria's life.

"My vision of a permanent memorial to my wonderful sister is very largely thanks to your love and generosity and is something all of you can ever more feel a part of."

The Rev Kate McKenna, of Bury Unitarian Church which overlooks the statue, spoke of the delight that came with commemorating one of the town’s finest.

"What Victoria brought into the world was quite simply joy, and joy is sacred. It is a thing that we all need and Victoria brought that to us and she has left it with us."

She added: "If you're a local, remember the pride that Bury feels in the joy that she brought to the town and pledge to share one bit of that whenever and wherever you can."

The Rev McKenna described the statue as a permanent national tribute to all that Victoria did and all that she was to the world.

The honour of unveiling the statue was given to comedian Ted Robbins who was Victoria's warm-up man from the beginning of her career.

"She was the most generous of souls, she was a shy off, we shan't see her like again," he said.

A huge round of applause greeted the unveiling and then many of those attending visited the Victoria Wood exhibition at Bury Museum, which is the most successful exhibition in its history.

But what would Victoria have made of a statue being erected in her honour?

"Silver Street is the road she walked along to go to Bury Grammar," Mr Foote Wood said.

"I imagine Victoria in ghostly form coming past her and having a good laugh at herself."