Laurel and Hardy fans from across the world are set to come to Sheffield. Colin Drury finds out why...
The advice to guests includes ‘don’t get blotto and faw down’. But organisers are sure no-one will find themselves in another nice mess.
Laurel and Hardy enthusiasts from across the world will descend on Sheffield next May when an annual UK conference lauding the work of the legendary duo is held here for the first time.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Sheffield Sons Of The Desert club sing the pair’s hits, during a visit to Chantry Brewery.
Some 150 fez-wearing fans will travel from as far as the US to enjoy the three day long Sons Of The Desert celebration. Events will include a city centre parade - where devotees don bowler hats and bare banners paying tribute to the comic pair - and an outdoor screening, probably at Weston Park.
Quizzes, live music and games - including an Kneesy, Earsy, Nosey competition - will be held each evening at the conference base, the Royal Victoria Hotel in Victoria Station Road. A suite there will be put aside for films and documentaries to be shown on a continual loop.
“We’ve got 150 people coming and we want to make sure they are thoroughly entertained,” says organiser Kevin Hepplestone, 59-year-old factory worker of Abbeydale Road by day, Exhausted Leader of the Sons Of The Desert Sheffield Tent fan club by night. “It’s great for Sheffield. When we were handed the Golden Pineapple we were right proud.”
Ah, yes, the Golden Pineapple. It’s sort of like the Olympic baton. Every year at the conference - 2015 will be the 36th - a fan club from a different city is picked to host the following year’s event. Once a decision is made, members of that club are passed the mock fruit as a symbol of responsibility.
“A golden pineapple appears in their Sons Of The Desert film,” explains John Burton, founding member of the Sheffield tent.
Tickets for the conference, which include three nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Blonk Street, have already been sold to visitors from the US, Belgium and the Netherlands. That’s despite the fact it doesn’t take place until next May 1-4.
“Why have a conference?” ponders John, a 47-year-old procurement consultant of Handsworth Road, Handsworth. “Because we’re nutters maybe. No, I think there’s just something about Laurel and Hardy that inspires devotion.”
* Weekend tickets £230 but tickets for individual events available as timetable is confirmed.
CLUB IS LEFT LAUGHING EVERY MONTH
Leave Em Laughing was the name of a Laurel and Hardy short released in 1928, but it could easily have been the pair’s motto.
For the duo - a heavy-set American and skinny English man who appeared in 107 films together in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties - have inspired a level of adoration that continues to this day.
More than 50 fan clubs exist in cities around the world, under the banner name (in homage to a 1933 film) Sons Of The Desert.
The Sheffield ‘tent’ was founded in 1988 and today has some 45 members, aged from 13 to 78.
The group - which was the seventh of its kind in the UK - meets n the second Monday of every month at The Handsworth Inn, in Handsworth Road, Handsworth. There, films are shown, a raffle is held and members occasionally partake in a film-inspired sing-song.
“It’s very social,” says John Burton. “It’s people coming together over a shared love of comedy.”
New members are welcome any time.
A UK Sons Of The Desert conference is held in a different location every year. Manchester hosted the event in 2014.