Dame Gracie Field’s triumphant return to her hometown of Rochdale after the second world war has been celebrated with a special plaque.
The plaque, which was unveiled by Rochdale Borough Council at Champness Hall in Drake Street on 28 July 2016, marks the spot where Gracie recorded the first of a series of concerts in 1947 which marked her return to mainstream broadcasting in the UK after the war.
Leader of the council, Councillor Richard Farnell, said: “Gracie had been away during the war and was unsure about the reception she would receive when she returned, but she gave a knockout performance here and the people of Rochdale took her to their hearts once again, proving that she was really was the Madonna of her day.”
‘2 great pieces of Rochdale history coming together’: Sean McNicholas from Champess Hall
Sean McNicholas, one of the trustees of Champness Hall, said: “It’s particularly fitting that we’ve installed a plaque which brings together two important parts of Rochdale’s history. Champness Hall is a fine heritage building and Gracie of course is a major part of our borough’s history. We’re honoured to have her plaque here at the place where she performed and it will also raise the profile of Champness Hall as we work to make people more aware of this fantastic building in the heart of Rochdale town centre.”
Gracie’s performance at the 91-year-old Champness Hall, which has art deco features, was the first of a series of 12 weekly BBC radio concerts, titled ‘Our Gracie’s Working Party’, which brought her back into mainstream popularity. The hall has also played host to other musical talents over the years, including Elvis Costello.
The latest plaque is the sixth in a series of 8 plaques, which will form part of a Gracie Fields trail to be completed in the autumn.
Further plaques will be placed in and around Rochdale town centre in the coming months, with key sites including Rochdale Town Hall, set to feature in the story of Gracie’s life. The Rotary Club of Rochdale East and the Gracie Fields Appreciation Society have both worked with the council to create the trail. A statue of Gracie will be unveiled in town hall square in late 2016.