Each month Derbyshire Libraries run a special promotion and for the month of August the theme is ‘Laugh out loud’. The world news just lately has been a little grim to say the least and I’m sure we could all do with something to put a smile on our faces, so I thought I’d investigate our Local Studies collection to see what Derbyshire comedy connections I could find.
There are many comedy actors with close links to the county. Arthur Lowe, the pompous Captain Mainwaring in the classic comedy series Dad’s Army was born in the north of the county at Hayfield. Robert Lindsay, who I remember as ‘Wolfie’ in the 1970s comedy Citizen Smith was born and grew up in Ilkeston.
James Bolam, best known for roles in ‘The Likely Lads’ and ‘Only When I Laugh’ was educated at Derby’s Bemrose School. He moved to Derby as a 13 year old, joining the 3rd year at the all-boys school. He initially trained as an accountant in Derby – but he also joined the Derby Shakespeare Company, appearing at the Derby Playhouse with them.
As a child growing up in the 1970s another TV favourite was ‘The Goodies’. Who can forget the three-seater bicycle and Kitten-Kong? Tim Brooke Taylor, one member of the famous threesome was born in Buxton and at one time was honorary Vice-President of Derby County Football Club.
Dirk Bogarde appeared in more than 60 films with a career that lasted over 50 years. His early film career included the Doctor series such as Doctor in the House and Doctor at Sea, which made him one of the most popular British film stars of the 1950s. Before this, during the second world war however, he enlisted in the army, and was sent for training in the interpretation of aerial photography at Smedley’s Hydro in Matlock, now County Hall. His training in 1943 helped him in his role in the D-Day landings where he worked with the Army Intelligence Photographic Unit.
Moving away from the silver screen and on to the printed word, children around the globe for generations have laughed at the tales by the wonderful Roald Dahl.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda are just two of his creations, but who knew that Dahl, born in Wales to Norwegian parents was educated for a time at Repton School?
Another author whose writings have often reduced me to tears – is Chesterfield born Derek Longden. I remember him reading his comic pieces on Radio Derby when I was a child – always hilarious.
His books on his life, starting with ‘Diana’s Story’ about the loss of his wife after years of her suffering with ME and followed by ‘Lost For Words’, about his mother had you one minute crying with laughter and the next with sorrow. So popular were they that they were adapted for television, with ‘Lost For Words’ winning a Bafta for actress Thora Hird.
Instead of words, cartoonist Bill Tidy is famous chiefly for his comic strips. ‘The Cloggies’ appeared in Private Eye from 1967-1981, a parody of the popular television series of the time The Forsyte Saga, but set in the industrial north instead of a genteel upper class society. Born in Cheshire, Bill now lives in Boylestone, near Ashbourne.
It’s not only people that have a comedy connection to Derbyshire – but places too. Most of these memories seem to centre on my childhood, but bringing us more up to date we have Royston Vasey. The village in cult comedy The League of Gentlemen is actually Hadfield in Derbyshire. The television series ran from 1999-2002 the brainchild of Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. It attracted a cult following and expanded into a full length film in 2005.
Other locations used in the series were Glossop and Hope Valley. If you knew the area you could spot:
- Hilary Briss’s scary butcher’s shop (J.W. Mettrick & Son)
- The old fishmonger’s became a veterinary surgery
- The empty estate agent found new life as the Attachments dating agency
- The little handicraft emporium was transformed into a joke shop one day and a video rental shop a week later
So here we have just a few of Derbyshire’s claim to comedy fame. Your local library will have plenty on offer to put a smile on your face over the coming month, so why not pop in and have a look.