THE day before what would have been Victoria’s 66th birthday, Bury’s Met staged a celebration of her life.

Originally planned to be just one evening performance, a matinee was added after tickets sold out within ten minutes for Saturday’s show.

It was organised by actress and director Noreen Kershaw, who is also a patron of The Met and a trustee of Bury Hospice, which benefited from the shows.

“It hit just the right note, it was fantastic,” she said, speaking after the matinee.

“It will go a long way to helping raise the funds for two more beds at the hospice. Everyone’s entered into the spirit of it.”

They certainly had, especially staff and volunteers at Bury Hospice. They dressed as the dinnerladies cast to serve cakes, and donned yellow berets and cagoules — in tribute to Victoria’s character of ‘Kimberley’s Friend’ — to sell programmes.

Even the raffle prizes were Victoria themed — a hostess trolley and vintage edition of Woman’s Weekly — items which Victoria found highly amusing uses for in one of her most popular songs.

With her warmth and welcoming personality, Noreen was the perfect interviewer of Victoria’s dinnerladies colleagues, Thelma Barlow and Duncan Preston, who appeared in the show.

“Victoria was never an easy person to work with, it was hard graft,” he said. “But what she was giving you was absolutely gold, so she wanted it done right.”

Like the other performers, he shared memories of Victoria’s extreme precision and recalled how she corrected him on his pronunciation of “every” during an As Seen On TV sketch back in 1984.

Duncan played Mr Clifford in the legendary Acorn Antiques and he revealed how Victoria took on board one of his suggestions.

“I always thought it would be really funny if an actor stood up so quickly during filming a scene that he hit his head on the sound boom. I mentioned this to Victoria but she sort of screwed her face up, but the next day it was there in the script.”

Speaking of the statue of Victoria, he said: “She’d be very surprised, but delighted.”

Tickets for afternoon and evening celebration sold out incredibly quickly.

“I wasn’t surprised,” said Duncan. “I mean, Victoria was able to sell out the Albert Hall for three weeks.”

Thelma Barlow revealed that it was through a dinner party — where Victoria was a guest — that she was cast as Dolly in Victoria’s sit-com, dinnerladies.

She said: “I mentioned that I was thinking of leaving Coronation Street, which obviously gave Vic the idea. It was Anne Reid’s [a long-time colleague of Victoria who also starred in dinnerladies] dinner party and I think Vic saw something in the way we bounced off each other.”

‘Bolton Bullfrog’ Bernard Wrigley entertained with a selection of comic songs and poems, and recalled how he appeared in Wood and Walters.

Victoria was present throughout the show in the form of a framed portrait. She would no doubt have been delighted by the affection and respect shown by all.

GIVING further insight into Victoria’s life were Sally Bankes and Liz Hume-Dawson. Sally appeared alongside Victoria in her award-winning World War Two drama, Housewife 49, and Liz was in both series of dinnerladies.

“Not only was she generous with her words, she was generous with her time and once you were within her trust she was an incredible mentor and support,” said Sally.

“She really looked out for those she enjoyed working with...a more loyal friend you could never meet. Never arrogant, never showy just humble and generous.”

Actor, writer, singer and musician Graham Lappin was one of the stars of the show. He played and sang a number of Victoria’s songs, including a glorious singalong version of The Ballad of Barry and Freda.

Bury Grammar School for Girls pupil Olivia Groves, 14, enjoyed the honour of reciting a poem the 14-year-old Victoria had written for the school magazine when she attended the school.

“ The school’s very proud of her, rightly so,” said a delighted Olivia.