RICHARD BATSON

His elevation to an MBE is, to the use the dialect Keith Skipper cherishes and champions, a “rum owd dew.” The writer, entertainer and broadcaster is celebrating getting a New Year's honour for services to the community in his beloved Norfolk - including helping to raise charity cash through his travelling Press Gang shows and founding a dialect “supporters' club”.

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His elevation to an MBE is, to the use the dialect Keith Skipper cherishes and champions, a “rum owd dew.”

The writer, entertainer and broadcaster is celebrating getting a New Year's honour for services to the community in his beloved Norfolk - including helping to raise charity cash through his travelling Press Gang shows and founding a dialect “supporters' club”.

But Mr Skipper said it was ironic that his “proud parochialism” which saw him sacked from Radio Norfolk in 1995 for bemoaning the lack of localness in the programming, had now won him an honour.

Toying with his new-found “nobility” he reckoned it stood for Master of Bucolic Entertainment, or maybe was just My Bewtiful Embellishment - and mockingly mumbled he would rather have a been a CBE as it stood for Chronicler, Broadcaster and Entertainer.

Mr Skipper, 62, was born at Beeston, near Dereham, and went to Hamond's Grammar School before embarking on a 17-year stint with the EDP at Thetford, Dereham, Yarmouth and Norwich, including 10 years on the sports desk when his duties included reporting on Norwich City.

After a “gap year” of cricket and strawberry picking in 1979, he joined Radio Norfolk at its inception, mainly fronting the dinner time show until the parting of the ways in November 1995 - which actually opened up scope for Mr Skipper to tackle the wider range of activities which have led to his award.

“It provided the incentive and the time to do things there would not have been time for if I had been in full time employment,” he explained.

That saw him leading the Press Gang, now in their 24th season, around hundreds of village halls raising thousands of pounds of local causes, including rattling buckets for the EDP's own We Care appeal. The venture started in 1984 on Cromer Pier at the suggestion of impresario Dick Condon, and came under the EDP umbrella in 1997.

He also organised a series of Aristosquits concerts at Wolterton Hall, where the county's great and the good did party pieces, again raising funds for We Care.

When he became one of the great and the good himself three years ago having become a deputy lieutenant he persuaded his other “DLs” to do a turn for the same cause.

But Mr Skipper is best-known for his love of the Norfolk dialect and was founder chairman of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect set up in 1999 to “promote and preserve” the local tongue, especially in the face of a spread of “Mummerset” accents in film, TV and radio dramas. Their work has now moved into schools to encourage youngsters to take a pride in their dialect.

He has also written more than 30 books, released many CDs and videos about Norfolk and is a popular after-dinner speaker.

Reflecting on his MBE he said he had been “writing and mardling about Norfolk and its unique character for a living and for pleasure since 1962 - and remain constantly inspired by a county of which I never tire.”

He owed the honour to his family - wife Diane, whose birthday is New Year's Eve giving rise to a double celebration in the Skipper household at Cromer, and sons Danny, 20 and Robin, 17 - as well was his “faithful friends who share their talents on the stage.”

Mr Skipper, who reported on many such awards as a young journalist, said: “Now I know how they feel, and feel proud to join their illustrious company.”

The next challenge was to ask his old marshman friend Eric Edwards MBE how a country boy should dress to meet the Queen - who was once sent a copy of Mr Skipper's Larn Yarself Norfolk book after it was revealed she did dialect impressions as a family after dinner entertainment.

“If she tells me I look like a mawkin, I will know I have failed the fashion test, but that she has read the book,” he chuckled.

(to the uninitiated a mawkin is the Norfolk word for a scarecrow)

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