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WATCH: Norfolk man remembers the day comedy icons Laurel and Hardy performed in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 16:17 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:49 17 January 2019

James Kennedy from Aylsham with his beloved autograph book which contains the signatures of the famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. Picture: Neil Didsbury

James Kennedy from Aylsham with his beloved autograph book which contains the signatures of the famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

They were the stars of Hollywood comedies with their names up in lights around the world.

But in February 1954, on a tour that saw the duo pack theatres across Britain, iconic double act Laurel and Hardy brought their slapstick antics to the heart of Norwich.

And as Stan & Ollie - the new film of the comedians’ last tour, featuring Norfolk’s very own Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) - is released, one man has shared his memories of their visit to the city.

James Kennedy, whose mother Mabel met the stars when they performed at the St. Giles’ Street Hippodrome, said she described them as “very gentlemanly”.

Mrs Kennedy, who played first violin in the Hippodrome, Theatre Royal, and Norwich Philharmonic Orchestras, was used to meeting stars of the stage and screen.

"They chatted to my mother for ages, they were very down-to-earth." James Kennedy's mother Mabel got Laurel and Hardy's autograph when they performed in Norwich in 1954. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“She said they were very gentlemanly, both of them. They didn’t seem like they needed their egos massaged,” her son said.

“They were getting older when they came to Norwich, but still had their slapstick.”

He added: “She recalled they were very nice to her. They asked about me, and finished by doing her a drawing, a self portrait of them and they signed it for her.

“I would have loved to see them - I bitterly regret missing it.”

Laurel and Hardy preparing to leave The Royal Hotel for The Hippodrome Theatre in Norwich on their February 1954 appearance. Photo: ARCHANTLaurel and Hardy preparing to leave The Royal Hotel for The Hippodrome Theatre in Norwich on their February 1954 appearance. Photo: ARCHANT

Mr Kennedy, 85, a writer and former insurance agent, came to Norfolk with his parents in 1939.

“We moved to Cromer when war broke out, and later moved to Norwich, where we got bombed out living in Thorpe,” he said.

“It all began in Scotland when my mother and father, Albert, got married and decided to start a dance band of their own.

“Then talkies came in and musicians who used to play for silent movies were out of a job.”

James Kennedy, 85, from Aylsham with a picture of his late mother Mabel who met Laurel and Hardy in Norwich in 1954. Picture: Neil DidsburyJames Kennedy, 85, from Aylsham with a picture of his late mother Mabel who met Laurel and Hardy in Norwich in 1954. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Mr Kennedy, who now lives in Aylsham, said: “The Hippodrome stayed open for most of the war, and she went on playing there until it was turned into a car park.

“She could read music at sight so the acts would hand her their opening music written on the back of cigarette packets to play.

“She met lots of interesting people: Morecambe and Wise, and Spike Milligan with The Goon Show - but that didn’t go down very well in Norwich.

“She had to play for all sorts acts, including chimpanzees.

Norfolk comedians the Nimmo twins unveiled the blue plaque at St Giles car park to commemorate the visit of Laurel and Hardy when the Hippodrome Theatre was on the site. Picture: SONYA BROWNNorfolk comedians the Nimmo twins unveiled the blue plaque at St Giles car park to commemorate the visit of Laurel and Hardy when the Hippodrome Theatre was on the site. Picture: SONYA BROWN

“There would be someone who released them on to the stage - one night they came on and snapped the microphone in half.”

Would you like to share your memories of Laurel and Hardy’s 1953 show in Norwich? Email reporter Jessica.Frank-Keyes@archant.co.uk

The autograph book which contains the signatures of Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise and Spike Milligan among others. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe autograph book which contains the signatures of Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise and Spike Milligan among others. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The Hippodrome on St Giles shortly before it was demolished to make way for a multi-storey car park in 1960. Photo: ARCHANTThe Hippodrome on St Giles shortly before it was demolished to make way for a multi-storey car park in 1960. Photo: ARCHANT

"They were my comedy heroes, I was over the moon." James Kennedy remembers the day his mother Mabel showed him the autographs of Laurel and Hardy. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The former Hippodrome, Norwich. Photo: ARCHANTThe former Hippodrome, Norwich. Photo: ARCHANT

The last interior photograph of the Hippodrome, St. Giles' Street, Norwich. Picture: SuppliedThe last interior photograph of the Hippodrome, St. Giles' Street, Norwich. Picture: Supplied

Cary Grant: The future Hollywood leading man played the Norwich Hippodrome as a 14-year-old acrobat in May 1918. Photo: PACary Grant: The future Hollywood leading man played the Norwich Hippodrome as a 14-year-old acrobat in May 1918. Photo: PA

The Hippodrome, St. Giles' Street. circa 1912. Photo: ARCHANTThe Hippodrome, St. Giles' Street. circa 1912. Photo: ARCHANT

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