Entertainment & Arts

Cilla Black funeral: Fans and stars say farewell in Liverpool

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Media captionKey moments from Cilla Black's funeral

Fans, family and fellow stars have turned out to pay their respects to singer and TV presenter Cilla Black at her funeral in Liverpool.

Hundreds of people applauded and threw flowers as her funeral cortege made its way to St Mary's RC Church.

Sir Cliff Richard told mourners the journey to the church had made him realise "how much people loved her".

TV stars Paul O'Grady, Jimmy Tarbuck and Christopher Biggins joined her sons Robert and Ben in giving readings.

Sir Cliff performed the song Faithful One and told the congregation it seemed "outrageous" that she was gone.

He said: "The one thing that hit me originally was that she was a woman of commitment and dedication.

"She had the determination and above all she had the gift - she was able to do what she set out to do.

"My memories of Cilla are going to be very, very happy ones."

The funeral Mass was celebrated by the Right Reverend Thomas Williams, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool.

Two of Black's sons also delivered readings. Robert Willis described his mother as a "wonderful lady who had touched all our lives and brought joy and laughter" to those she knew.

He said: "Her pure enthusiasm, self belief and wonderful sense of humour made being with her a joy and a pleasure."

Mr Willis added that she was a "trailblazer in the fields of music and television" and "set the bar high and it's still there".

His brother Ben Willis later spoke, saying his mother "was always young at heart".

He continued: "I think this was one of the reasons so many people loved her dearly. She loved being a star. She lived to entertain and make people happy."

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Image caption Hundreds of people tried to get a view outside the church

Christopher Biggins delivered a Bible reading from the Book of Wisdom, Jimmy Tarbuck read the Prayers of the Faithful and Paul O'Grady gave a touching and humorous closing tribute.

"I firmly believed that Cilla was indestructible," O'Grady said. "I've got fabulous Cilla stories because we just had such a good time together. We just laughed constantly. We got into a lot of trouble, I'll admit, but we laughed while we were doing it.

"I loved this lady dearly. You've no idea. She was one of my closest friends and I absolutely adored her."

Black's 1964 hit Anyone Who Had A Heart was played during Holy Communion and her coffin left the church to the sound of The Long And Winding Road by her friends The Beatles.

Other guests included Andrew Lloyd Webber, Carol Vorderman and Sir Tom Jones.

Black died of a stroke after falling over at her Spanish home earlier this month at the age of 72.

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Image caption Some fans threw flowers onto the hearse

Inside the church - BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson

A Cliff Richard solo performance, Christopher Biggins taking Holy Communion and a bishop ordering Paul O'Grady to say three Hail Marys - Cilla Black's funeral had the lot.

The 340 people packed into St Mary's Church included friends from right across her 50-plus years in showbusiness. Carol Vorderman, Lorraine Chase and Jo Wood belted out All Things Bright and Beautiful. Les Dennis hugged his Corrie co-star Ted Robbins.

Sir Tom Jones had played a concert in a Solvakian Castle last night and told me he had booked a private jet in order to be here. There he was sitting in the fifth row. Cliff was in the second.

This was also about family, with two of her sons doing readings and grandchildren walking up the aisle to say goodbye to their gran.

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Image caption Carol Vorderman, Sir Tom Jones and Mike McCartney arrived at the church together
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Media captionJimmy Tarbuck paid tribute to "Liverpool's Cinderella" ahead of Cilla Black's funeral
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Image caption Christopher Biggins (left) and Gerry Marsden were among the mourners
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Image caption The star held her home city in great affection

The church is the same one where Black and her late husband Bobby Willis had their marriage blessed in 1969, following a register office wedding earlier that year.

Black grew up in Liverpool and found fame on stage after singing in clubs including the famous Cavern in the early 1960s.

She went on to become a TV favourite, hosting the hit Saturday night shows Blind Date and Surprise Surprise from the mid-1980s to early 2000s.

Fans have been asked to make donations in her name to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. An online donation page has been set up.

After the service, Black's body will be laid to rest at a private ceremony in Allerton Cemetery, where her parents are buried.

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Image caption Black died at the age of 72 at her Spanish home
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Image caption Her marriage to Bobby Willis was blessed at St Mary's following a register office ceremony in 1969

An album of the star's greatest hits re-entered the UK top 40 after her death, and is continuing to climb the chart.

It is likely to be in the top three when the next chart is announced on Friday, according to the Official Chart Company, and could be number one.

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