The 'Stan & Olliday 2013' was held over the August Bank Holiday weekend - with the theme being:
LAUREL and HARDY in BLACKPOOL
After evening meal together, our small but select party made its way to the Grand Theatre, to see Britain's favourite comedy double act - Cannon & Ball, who have been together now for fifty one years. After the show they were kind enough to come and come out and say 'Hello' to us, and pose for photos.
Saturday morning was 'The Laurel and Hardy Locations Tour.' First stop was the Winter Gardens complex, where we taken on a guided tour by the Duty Manager. My original request had been to view the Baronial Hall, where Stan and Babe had been guests at a banquet in 1932, but our host, Gregor, kindly showed us around ALL the major venues in this massive complex.
Next on the tour was the vast Empress Ballroom, where nine thousand fans had raised the roof with cheering and clapping when Laurel and Hardy made a brief appearance on stage there, in 1932.
A hundred photographs later, the next locations shoot came on the seafront, facing the Tower and Complex. The Palace Theatre, scene of appearances by the boys in 1932 and 1947, used to stand adjacent to the Tower Complex so, using contemporary photos, we were able to take present day images to compare 'Then and Now.'
One short hop later, and we found ourselves sitting in the near-one hundred and twenty year old Tower Circus. All the animal acts which used to be the stock in trade of the circus, have been replaced by acrobatic and aerial acts, and what a talented cosmopolitan company they proved to be. Between acts we were treated to comical breaks by the funny and very talented Mooky, a clown who spends not more than one ounce of unnecessary energy, but makes every action count. He has been established at the Tower Circus for some twenty years, and looks like remaining there for many more.
Next came the obligatory trip up Blackpool Tower. Beforehand we had been complaining about the costs of admission to the newly refurbished tower, but our gripe gradually diminished as we got to see the many changes and additions. After viewing a short but spectacular film in the new 4-D cinema, we were treated to a panoramic view of Blackpool and the surrounding suburbs, from the Tower's observation decks - 500 feet up.
Tired feet were then rested as we surveyed the beautiful décor of the Tower Ballroom - another venue Stan and Babe had visited.
Saturday night found us all on the end of the North Pier, watching the setting sun, followed by more socialising and free-time.
The theme of the weekend was brought to the fore when, on Sunday morning, we watched the screen version of 'The Boys in Blackpool,' which included every known photo of Stan and Babe in Blackpool, accompanied by contemporary news reports, and Blackpool footage to set the atmosphere of those days. The illustrated talk also included details of The Boys' week-long stay in Morecambe which, by no coincidence, was our next port of call.
Following a car ride through some very pleasant countryside, and a welcome ice-cream to combat the heat of this gloriously sunny Bank Holiday Sunday, we were swallowed up in the cool of the Victoria Pavilion Theatre, in the Winter Gardens.
Our hosts, the Friends of the Winter Gardens, treated us to complimentary drinks, before taking us on a personal tour of this grand, historic building, which is currently undergoing a major refurbishment to bring it back to a working theatre.
Our very knowledgeable guide, armed with a photo-album of old shots of the building, took us over every square inch of the building, and pointed out the various places where Laurel and Hardy were photographed during their appearances.
Another hundred photographs later we emerged into the afternoon heat, and spent the rest of our time mingling with thousands of day-trippers, and enjoying other attractions Morecambe still has to offer - such as the Midland Hotel, the fairground, the Eric Morecambe statue, and the former site of the Elms Hotel, in Bare, where Laurel and Hardy had stayed the week.
Back in Blackpool, it was the Central Pier which kept our party occupied on the Sunday evening, with its many attractions marking it as a mini Coney Island.
Monday morning arrived all too quickly, but there was still lots to do. Again, all the cameras were out, as we recreated photographs of Laurel and Hardy on the balcony of the Metropole Hotel.
Come noon, our packed entertainment programme came to a stop. We had achieved all we set out to do regarding the Laurel and Hardy connection, and had a great holiday to boot. The great pity of it, is that more didn't attend. Not only did we get a great discount off the hotel tariff, but were actually UPGRADED to Premiere class, which meant that all of us had a sea-view suite, and ate in the Premiere restaurant.
SONS at the SEASIDE
I simply have to say a really big 'Thank You' to those Sons who came along, for making it such a fun and memorable Olliday.
When you add in the free tours we were given to the whole of the Blackpool attractions, plus the ones related to Laurel & Hardy, and the generous discounts we received, this turned out to be an unbeatable package at an unbeatable price - for which our sincere thanks goes to our hosts at all the venues we visited.
Our grateful thanks go to Dave Tomlinson, Terry Baxter, and Howard Parker for the 2013 photos.
METROPOLE HOTEL, BLACKPOOL
BLACKPOOL GRAND THEATRE
BLACKPOOL TOWER and CIRCUS
BLACKPOOL WINTER GARDENS
MORECAMBE WINTER GARDENS