The History Of The Laughing Gravy Tent Birmingham
Having attended the 1990 International Convention in Clearwater, Florida and the 1992 Convention in Las Vegas, John Ullah decided to start a tent in his hometown of Birmingham.
Birmingham is of course the birthplace of Charlie Hall, who appeared in 47 films with Laurel & Hardy.
Also, the origins of our society, The Sons of the Desert, can be traced back to Birmingham; following a meeting between American student John McCabe and Stan Laurel at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1953.
Below is a copy of John Ullah’s letter (published in the Helpmates Magazine) that started it all.
Steve Smith and Barrie Finney replied (Steve Smith was a television-broadcasting engineer, with an interest in film comedy and cinema theatres, and the late Barrie Finney was a graphic designer and collector of L&H memorabilia)
In early 1993, the three met in the James Brindley Pub to discuss ideas for the new tent.
Laughing Gravy was to be the name of the tent, and the venue would be The Barn Social Club, Witton, Birmingham.
Fittingly on the 1st April 1993 the first meeting of the Laughing Gravy tent took place. 72 people attended the inaugural meeting, including Charlie Hall’s nephew Ron Hall. The following month Charlie’s brother Frank also made an appearance.
Within 9 months the tent moved to a new venue, which would its home for next 15 years, The Bromford Social, Erdington, Birmingham.
1995 and the tent made a momentous decision. It would bid to host the 1998 International Convention here in Birmingham. Barrie Finney designed the logo, and the tent set about getting permission from Birmingham City Council, to incorporate the City’s coat of arms into it.
Permission granted, John Ullah put forward the tent’s bid at the 1996 International Convention that took place at sea on board the cruise ship ‘Ecstasy’.
To everyone’s amazement Birmingham beat off a very strong challenge from the Midnight Patrol Tent of Monterey, California, USA to win the bid by just two votes.
Terry Weir (who joined the tent in 1995) wrote to the Queen to invite her to the Birmingham convention. Did she take up Terry’s offer? Below is the reply from Buckingham Palace.
The tent also received a message from Jon McCabe himself which read:
“It is thrilling for me to realise that those 256+ people are assembling in Birmingham because I once took a casual trip there to find a book in the University Library, and on my way there saw a certain theatrical poster. Of such little things great things grow. Fraternally, John.”
TO BE CONTINUED …………………………