IT almost didn’t happen at all, but a rescue mission for Wigan’s long-lived Laurel and Hardy festival was today proclaimed a big success.
Dozens of Sons of the Desert from the length of the British mainland converged on Bryn Labour Club for the 19th annual Laurel and Har-Day.
The festival, hosted by Stan and Ollie’s international fan club, was in danger of not taking place this year after the resignation of a key member of the local tent (branch) and the closure of Upper Morris Street Working Men’s Club in Scholes.
But comedy lovers hadn’t reckoned without Eric Woods from Widnes’s Come Clean tent, who organised such a packed programme at short notice that there wasn’t time to get through it all.
An undoubted highlight was a trip down Memory Lane with local pensioner Elsie Pilkington who held the room in her thrall with a tale from her childhood when Stan and Ollie came to Wigan during their 1947 British tour and were greeted by 8,000 cheering fans at Poolstock Greyhound Stadium.
A magician entertained the audience who also took part in a Laurel and Hardy quiz, and because William Santus and Co had chipped in with a bit of sponsorship, there was also a good-old sing-song that included a rendition of Mike Harding’s Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls song.
The annual Kneeie Earsie Nosie world championships (a hand-eye co-ordination game perfected by Stan) were staged, this year won by young John Burton and of course there were plenty of the comedy duo’s classic films screened.
Eric said: “Everyone had a good day and plans are now already under way for September 1, 2012 and the 20th festival.
“It was great to hear Elsie’s memories, quite a lot of ale flowed and, I am pleased to say, it got very silly at times,
“I’ve already had quite a few e-mails from fellow Sons saying what a really enjoyable time they had, so roll on next year!”