Pam Ayres is Sidmouth FolkWeek hit

PAM AYRES is a bit like Marmite.

PAM AYRES is a bit like Marmite. You either love her or hate her.

Ever since she won Opportunity Knocks in the '70s, with her strangely named poem Pam Ayres and the Embarrassing Experience with the Parrot, she has been entertaining audiences around the world with her quirky, heart-warming compositions.

Last Thursday, as a pre-festival treat, she came to Sidmouth and wowed a packed Ham Marquee, reducing 1,000 people to almost continuous laughter with her comic verse and finely-tuned timing.

And how refreshing to have someone learn their poetry before reciting it. "Well," she said, "if you have to pay so much for tickets, it's the least I can do."

Born in Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berks, in 1947 it is her unmistakable accent and gift for making you laugh that has kept Pam at the top of her game in the entertainment world.

Had she not discovered her talent Pam may have remained a secretary - "I've got 120 words Pitman you know" - though, somehow I very much doubt it.

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She takes everyday events and turns them into something special, and the stories she interjects with her poems reflect the humour that comes across in her work.

Marrying husband [and agent] Dudley Russell late, the couple have two sons in their early twenties and a whole menagerie of animals, including dogs, cattle, sheep, pigs, hens, and goldfish.

She explains how inspiration for one rhyme came from watching a lad playing rugby "a great big bloke with hairy legs" and suddenly realising it was her son William.

Her family and animals are great sources of inspiration. One she recounted was of her husband's ability to know something about everything and pass judgment on it.

Called They Should Have Asked My Husband one verse reads:

"Congestion on the motorways, free holidays for thugs,

The damage to the ozone layer, refugees, drugs,

These may defeat the brain of any politician bloke,

But present it to my husband: he will solve it at a stroke."

Another story is of a skiing holiday with her sons. They could ski. She joined a beginner's class. She turned the experience of having her first lesson into a hilarious tale, proving her skills of observation and storytelling.

Contact lenses, feeding birds, the wonders of a Wonderbra, the day she dismembered her sister's dolly, are all immortalised in her verse, but it is her performance that brings them to life, the sparkle in her eyes, the infectious grin, her superb timing, bring a quality of depth and warmth to her performance, because Pam Ayres is an entertainer, not just a poet, and unlike Marmite, she is great.