Laurel and Hardy

Wigan Laurel and Hardy fans celebrate double act’s centenary

A century of mirth-making will be celebrated at the latest annual gathering of Laurel and Hardy fans in Wigan.

The Sons of the Desert have been holding a borough event for 29 years now and the one looming on September 4 promises to be a particularly special one.

For it is marking 100 years since the greatest partnership in movie history was formed on screen.

Lucky Dog came out in 1921 and featured then solo star Laurel and the titular hound and at one point they are confronted by seasoned film “heavy” Hardy as a gun-toting robber.

Sons and Daughters of the Desert at a pre-pandemic Laurel and HarDay
Sons and Daughters of the Desert at a pre-pandemic Laurel and HarDay

The pair would then go their way for several more years before becoming a proper comedy team, but Lucky Dog is the moment it all started and the two-reeler will be shown at the Laurel and HarDay which takes place, has has been the tradition of recent years, at Bryn Masonic Hall on Bryn Road, on Saturday September 4.

Gary Winstanley, also known as the Grand Sheikh of the Dirty Works tent (the Sons branch based in Wigan, each tent being named after Stan and Ollie film), says that there will be a veritable feast of film on the day as visitors are treated to a screening of Laurel and Hardy’s Road to Laughter, a new documentary charting the two stars’ early years before they became a double act.

And this year, as part of the centenary celebrations, Sons (and Daughters) of the Desert have been asked for their favourite scenes from the Laurel and Hardy films. A top 100 has been compiled and there has been a countdown from 100 to 20 over recent weeks online. However, on the day the full top 100 will be screened – in a series of segments – including the top 20 for the first time.

Maintaining the tradition of having a Laurel and Hardy variation on a famous TV gamne show, there will this year be a take on Blockbusters (called Blockheadbusters, after the duo’s feature film Blockheads), as well as Eric Woods’s rather more tricky annual quiz.

How it all started: Stan and Ollie come face to face in Lucky Dog
How it all started: Stan and Ollie come face to face in Lucky Dog

Other attractions include the 25th World Kneesy Earsy Nosey Championships, a film reflecting on last year’s Laurel and HarDay which was held remotely (called They Go Zoom – another pun on one of the duo’s short subjects) and memorabilia stalls.

There will also be a fond remembrance for one of the event’s most dedicated fans, Kevin Hepplestone, aka Jupiter, who died with Covid several weeks ago.

Gary said: “Kevin was a good friend to me and to the event and he will be sorely missed.

“I would like to think he would really enjoy this year’s Laurel and HarDay. There’s so much to pack in and of course it is a particularly special event because of the centenary.

“As always we should remind people that this is a celebration for everyone. You don’t have to be in the Sons of the Desert to come, and it’s open to old and young, men and women.”

Doors open at 12.30pm and the Laurel and HarDay runs from 1pm to about 6pm. Admission is just £5 on the door.

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