Laurel and Hardy 'HELPMATES UK' Convention
Holiday Inn Hotel, Chatham, Kent.
– Sunday 6th May 2012
Firstly, many thanks to all of you who came along and supported the Helpmates UK Convention - Sunday 6th May 2012. Again we had a nice mix of new and regular faces, plus several we had not seen for years. It was good to have several Sons from other Tents joining us. We were pleased to see Grand Sheik Dave Ballard coming all the way down from the County Hospital Tent in Bradford to spend the day with us. It was also heart-warming to see how many of the numbers were made of families with young children, as the latter are the ones who will keep the Sons going for “hundreds of centuries of generations” – as Stan might have said.
WHAT FILMS WERE SHOWN?
Our event was pure ‘Laurel & Hardy’ – designed for those who enjoy watching their films on the big screen. The main film shows had been skilfully put together by Trevor Dorman, who flew in from Ireland that very morning to be with us. With two film rooms running all day we made sure that there was something for everybody to enjoy. Normally we steer clear of screening silent films, as they haven’t proved too popular in the past, but the ones we showed this time were very well received, thanks to the addition of music, sound, and sound effects being skilfully and laboriously added by Trevor Dorman.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS and SCREENINGS
Dave Wyatt started our live presentations with a special screening of the Stan Laurel solo “When Knights Were Cold,” which was also very well received following Dave’s interesting introduction. He later presented an illustrated talk on the “Golden Age Of Robert Youngson” followed by a big screen showing of ‘Laurel & Hardy’s Laughing 20’s.
Glenn Mitchell introduced “A Pair Of Tights,” as a follow-up to the article in the last Laurel & Magazine wherein he detailed how Laurel and Hardy almost appeared in it.
During the day we even had a Film Premier! Thanks to a very kind gesture by German film director Andreas Baum we had the first-ever screening of the English version of his documentary: “Laurel & Hardy: Their Lives & Magic." It contains many L&H-film-clips; unpublished photographs; film and home-movie footage; clips from past documentaries; and interviews with (for example) Lois Laurel Hawes, Lucille Hardy Price, Hal Roach, Marcel Marceau, Bart Williams, Booth Colman, Phyllis Coates, Jean Darling, Stan Taffel, Chuck McCann und Jim MacGeorge, Richard W. Bann, Tyler St. Mark, Michael Ehret, Wolfgang Günther, René Riva and many more!
Film Room Two was packed for this screening and the film got a well deserved round of applause afterwards. Details of how to obtain this superb documentary (in a DVD box-set) will be published soon.
The early evening programme in Film Room 1 started off in grand style with “A.J” Marriot doing a PowerPoint Presentation on “LAUREL & HARDY’S Atlantic Crossings” – which contained around 150 rare photographs of Stan, Babe, and their wives embarking, on board, or disembarking from ships, and then touring Europe, all inter-spliced with actual footage of them on board. Add to this A.J’s witty narrative, and you will see that the packed audience got far more than just a series of holiday snaps.
“A.J” Marriot and Anthony Mitchell-Waite were on hand to sign copies of their latest books, and David Tomlinson had a great display of Laurel and Hardy autographs – some genuine and some fake. But which were which? Thankfully, David was able to help with the answers.
THE PRIZE IS RIGHT
We screened “Oliver the Eighth” just before the raffle, as this led into a very clever demonstration of “The Invisible Card Trick” by Kevin Doig, inspired by a scene in that very film.” As for the Raffle itself, we had over thirty prizes. (You don’t believe me!) Our thanks go to the very generous members who donated such valuable prizes. Normally we would not name any of our donors, but Peter Rose deserves a special mention for donating some magnificent prizes, which would not have been out-of-place as prizes on a TV Game Show. And to Paul Wright who donated a rather nice metal laser cut picture of ‘the Boys’. Our thanks too, of course, to all who bought raffle tickets, and made the draw such a fun event.
Paul Wright with a metal 'Laurel & Hardy' picture.
Paul Wright with a metal 'Laurel & Hardy' picture.
MERCHANDISE and MEMORABILIA
Throughout the day the Sales Room was open. And what a display it was, in a room in which was big enough to use as a convention room itself, but was bursting from corner to corner with Laurel & Hardy merchandise from all over the world.
Our 'Laurel & Hardy' sales room soon filled up upon opening.
My apologies to those who I didn’t get to speak too, or had to limit my time with, but I was so busy dashing around to ensure everything was ticking over nicely, that my feet were never still. How I would have managed without our magnificent team of Helpmates’ helpmates, I don’t know. In fact, I don’t think I could, so I would like to thank the people who put in so much work to make it all possible: First and foremost Richard Ellis who supplied and ran the vast amount of visual and audio equipment, and who worked tirelessly throughout the day to ensure that the films stayed running in BOTH rooms. To Trevor Dorman – who worked out the programme, supplied some very rare footage, re-constructed films, and inserted many instructive, amusing and informative title cards into the programme. To Celia for running the Raffle; and to Kevin Doig – who did such a stalwart job in supervising and compering the special events. Not forgetting David Wyatt, for some specialist clips, and those ‘experts’ who were on hand throughout the day to answer all your questions about the Boys – Dave Tomlinson; Glenn Mitchell; Antony Mitchell-Waite, and “A.J” Marriot. And last, but by no means least, I was fortunate to have the considerable help of friends and family, who manned the check-in desk and the sales room all day, leaving me free to circulate.
HELPMATES UK 2013 CONVENTION
Because we got such a great response and positive feedback from this 2012 Convention, we have already committed ourselves to next year, and have booked the hotel for Sunday 26th May - Bank Holiday Weekend. That is confirmed, so you can put the date in your diaries right now. (By putting the date back a bit, we may miss the rainy season next year.)
As a direct result of our issuing long-distance travellers with maps and brochures showing the local attractions in the Medway area, quite a few conventioneers made a weekend of it to go sightseeing. One such attraction was the “Dickens Sweeps Festival” in Rochester, the day before our event.
Next year will also be special in that it will mark 30 years of us holding Conventions at the Holiday Inn – although it has undergone a few name changes over the years. (Some of our longer-serving members still refer to it as “The Crest.”)
Meanwhile, here are some comments guests sent in about the 2012 Helpmates UK Convention:
WHAT THEY SAID
Just wanted to repeat my thanks for yet another fantastic convention. It is obvious that you have taken a lot of effort to make the event something to remember. Highlights include the German documentary, presentation by A.J and the raffle. Thank you again, and I hope it runs again next year.
Regards, Steve Dykes
Great show again - really enjoyed it, especially the documentary and 'When Knights Were Cold'. Two room format really works – there's always something interesting to see. I'm already looking forward to next year's event. I know these things take a lot of organising – well done!!
My brother Howard and I had a great time, and we especially enjoyed the German documentary and the talks given by A.J and others, It is being able to see things that are not generally available that really makes the convention special. See you same time next year,
Just wanted to let you know that my daughter and I really enjoyed the convention today. I would also like to highlight the brilliant job of the lady who hand engraved the glasses of Laurel & Hardy. Once again thank you for a pleasant day. Hope there is another one next year. Kindest Regards,
Rob Lewis Denise Tomlinson
Thanks for putting together such a great convention!
Patte (from Canada)
What a wonderful Convention. Thank you for all your hardy work, Rob. Great gathering–laughter–new friends–excellent films and talks–just the tops!!!
Kind regards Tony Butcher
Just had to tell you how much my Dad and I enjoyed the convention last Sunday. It was so very well organised and the atmosphere was so good that we couldn't help but have a good time. You and your helpers did a magnificent job and it goes without saying that we appreciated all your efforts. We can't wait for next year.
With all good wishes, David Stoker.
Dear Rob & Gang,
Thanks for another great event yesterday at Chatham, my wife and grandson had a lovely day. We especially enjoyed the ‘lost’ Stan Laurel Robin Hood spoof.
Best wishes, Roy Hollister.
Just got over last Sunday. Thank you and AJ etc. for a good day. We note a few changes from the past, but change is good. I am enjoying both A.J’s and Antony Mitchell’s new books. What I have read thus far is first class. I will also purchase the “Laurel and Hardy Their Lives and Magic” documentary which was very good and worth seeing. The talks were good as well, well done Dave, AJ and Glenn.
When’s the next one Rob? Thank you again for a good day.
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