Charles Graham - Ups and downs of comic heritage

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IT has been a strangely serious week for comedy in Wigan.

Firstly we learnt of events commemorating 50 years since George Formby’s death. Then came news that the Wigan branch of the Sons of the Desert - which venerates the lives and works of Laurel and Hardy - could be about to expire.

As far as Formby is concerned, I don’t care it has taken so solemn a landmark to prompt overdue recognition. For while the banjolele maestro’s appreciation society is based here and a few mavericks have fought hard for a blue plaque and statue, for a long time there has not been wholesale pride in his work from his home town.

Sad really, because for all his superstardom, he never lost touch with his roots and many are the fond references to Wigan in his films and songs.

So a little reciprocation was well overdue. That we now have a major exhibition and various associated events at the Wigan Museum of Life to look forward to next month is much to be welcomed.

Much less welcome is the worrying state of the Dirty Work tent: the Wigan branch of the Stan and Ollie fan club.

It appears to be suffering from a classic case of lynch-pin removal. I have seen it time and again.

You think an organisation is sailing along with the firm hand of a committee on the tiller. Then one member leaves and the whole thing falls apart because that person was disproportionately integral to running the show.

Gary Winstanley’s reasons for stepping down as Grand Sheik couldn’t be worthier. Taking on the running of meetings and all-day shows is a hard ask in itself, but when you have a full time job and family commitments too it would be beyond the pale for most folk.

He doesn’t fear that all is lost...yet...because if enough fans pull together to do their bit then there is a chance of the Sons continuing in Wigan.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we need off-the-wall fun like this for variety’s sake. Wigan would be a culturally poorer and sadder place without it.