It was with a minor amount of trepidation that we arrived for the Bournemouth weekend. This was because, after 20+ years of attending the THAS reunion dinners the society had broken with tradition and changed the venue to the Queens Hotel. I needn‚Äôt have worried. On entering the foyer we discovered some canny members, after viewing the hotel website the previous day, had arrived early and were making full use of the swimming pool and spa. I was a bit cross that I‚Äôd left my swimming trunks at home but really with such an action packed day ahead there was no time for such activities.
Knowing that Richard Briers (I‚Äôd glimpsed him in the bar) and Dave Davies were to be our honoured guests I didn‚Äôt want to miss anything. So, after throwing luggage into our rooms, loads of society members piled into various cars and headed for the Avon Social Club a few miles away. This is the place where Tony Hancock made his first professional performance and our publicity officer Dave Miles had arranged for a plaque to be unveiled on this site to commemorate the event.
On arrival it was clear that the locals were aware of something going on as there was already a large crowd. Well we had to park on a double yellow line! After a short while what a sight. Two classic white Roll Royces were coming down the road; one for each of our honoured guests and their wives (Richard and Ann Briers pictured). Dave Miles had thought of everything (although I didn‚Äôt think they rented Rolls Royces to people in lounge suits). Dave gave a short speech and then introduced the guests. Dave Davies said a few words before unveiling the plaque and jolly good it looks too. (We did have a sneaky preview in the January edition of the Missing Page).
As far as I know this is the first plaque to be presented anywhere by the THAS. (A photo of Dave Davies and Richard Briers with the plaque iis opposite) After much photograph taking, especially of ladies with Dave Davies, we all went inside for a look round at the small room and stage. Richard Briers and Dave Davies had a picture taken of them together on the stage. Whilst all this was going on I told Dave Davies that as a teenager I used to go to a Muswell Hill youth club called Northbank and that the Kinks (I think they were called the Ravens then) had played there for us once. Dave told me that he still had a ticket from that event.
Back to the hotel for a rest, wash and brush up and later to go downstairs where we all congregated for the evening dinner. On entering the dining room we were all given a welcoming glass of cheer and there was general chit chat until we took our places. As well as a personalised menu we were each given a goody bag (well plate actually) of Hancock memorabilia including a badge (nothing pretentious just a little enamel thing). Already, to me, the ambience had improved by several points but then Dryden Pennington raised the level another notch when as Master of Ceremonies he invited us all to stand and welcome our guests. Dryden continued wonderfully in this role for the rest of the evening. The lovely three course meal, with wine, was then served to us by an excellent, well-mannered and friendly staff.
After coffee had been served Dryden introduced President Dan Peat who read messages of good will from Tessa le Bars and Liz Fraser and a sad one from Val James telling Dan of Roger Hancock‚Äôs death this week. Dave Miles then introduced Dave Davies who told us, among other things, that Hancock had inspired him in some of his writing unusually finding him frightening at times. He then quipped that after tonight he would now be inspired by Dan‚Äôs jokes! Mike Brown, joking about them both being scousers, introduced his friend Richard Briers. Richard gave an entertaining speech and although he hadn‚Äôt met Hancock he put him in the top three comedians of all time. Of those he had met and worked with undoubtedly Tommy Cooper was the funniest replying to Richard‚Äôs request as to what he should do to help came a resounding ‚Äònothing‚Äô. Richard was asked about how he felt working with animals in ‚ÄòThe Good Life‚Äô. He replied that he was very fond of them and that his favourites were the pigs to the extent that he couldn‚Äôt eat bacon for several months after the series had ended.
After Richard‚Äôs speech Ken Clarke thanked all our honoured guests and told Dave Davies that years ago as an on duty policeman at a Kinks gig at Market Hall, Redhill Ken had asked him for his autograph. ‚ÄúWhat you don‚Äôt remember me?‚Äù Our guests were then presented with ‚Äòthank you‚Äô gifts. Dave Miles had created two framed caricatures of Richard Briers and Dave Davies each with Tony Hancock and these were presented to them along with flowers for their wives.
Andy Clayden then announced the three annual awards, which this year were certificates signed by Alan Simpson and Ray Galton. These were presented by Andy to Mark Fisher, Martin Gibbons and Dan Peat (unknown to him as Andy had told him a little white lie). Some members may know that long term archivist and all round Hancock expert Malcolm Chapman is unwell. The intention had been for Richard Briers to present Malcolm with a lifetime award, signed by Richard, for his dedication in keeping the name of Tony Hancock alive. Unfortunately Malcolm was too ill to attend but I‚Äôm pleased to be able to report that Ken Clarke and Ros Dawson took the signed and framed certificate round to Malcolm‚Äôs house the next morning.
They were shown Malcolm‚Äôs meticulously arranged and catalogued material. Malcolm was moved and emotional at receiving the award and we all wish him well. After the presentations the raffle took place and Dave Davies drew the tickets. It seemed that everyone in the room got a prize except me (Oh I see you have to buy a ticket). Photos, autographs, videos and general chat continued until it was time to go up the wooden
What‚Äôs not to like? The plaque unveiling, the new venue, MC and exceptional hotel staff during the evening all made for a brilliant day. We all owe a big thank you to Dave Miles and Mike Brown for all their liaising and organisational skills in getting two exceptional guests.
I‚Äôm told that the hotel has provisionally been booked for the 6th May 2012 with the possibility of June Whitfield along with Alan Simpson and Ray Galton as guests. It‚Äôs early days yet but here‚Äôs hoping. Personally I can‚Äôt wait.
(Photos above - above left: Dan Peat with Richard Briers and Dave Davies; above left, Richard Briers signing autographs; below Dave Davies and Richard Briers at the dinner)