FANS of George Formby, the famed ukulele-playing, gap-toothed personification of gormlessness, are in for a rare treat this week as the Forest Arts Centre in Walsall hosts the Formby Festival.
The fun starts at 2pm on Thursday, 26th September, with a screening of the comedian’s 1940 movie Let George Do It.
In this classic wartime comedy George is a member of the Dinky-Do band on his way to Blackpool but he gets on the wrong boat and ends up in Norway where he is mistaken for a British agent on a secret mission, with much subsequent hilarity.
Widely regarded as Formby’s best film, with a supporting cast including Phyllis Calvert, Bernard Lee and Coral Browne and some fine songs, it is perhaps best remembered for the dream sequence in which George flattens Hitler with a right hook to the conk.
Tickets are £3 and £2 concession.
On Saturday, 28th September, the Formby Workshop offers a unique experience and opportunity to learn to play the ukulele. During the one hour session, using modern techniques coupled with traditional ukulele styles, you can learn how to play two classic George Formby songs.
No prior musical knowledge is required but you will need a ukulele. Take along your own or you can purchase one on the day at £15.
Places must be booked in advanced, the sessions start at 10am and are £5.
On Wednesday, 2nd October, at 7.30pm, Salida Productions present Formby, starring Ewan Wardrop and directed by Ed Hughes. The play follows George Formby’s rise from awkward stableboy to one of Britain’s biggest stars. In a unique one-man performance, Ewan Wardrop plays Formby as well as other key characters in the fascinating story of his life. Tickets are £6.
Finally, on Thursday, 3rd October, the Senior Citizens’ Orchestra concert will see the orchestra join in with the Formby Festival, and guests, the Cannock Ex-Servicemen’s Choir, will include some Formby favourites in their programme, while the orchestra will perform a specially arranged item of George Formby music. The concert begins at 2pm and admission is £1.
For more details of these events at the Forest Arts Centre, Hawbush Road, Leamore, Walsall, call 01922 654555 or log on at www.forestartscentre.co.uk. The box office telephone is 0845 111 2898.
The Formby Festival gives us the opportunity to reprint these pictures of George Formby at a Smethwick factory in 1940.
The star, then at the height of his fame, visited Finegan’s sweet factory in Rolfe Street, where they made the well-known “Nipakoff” cough sweets.
In the first picture George sits with the factory cat on his lap, surrounded by staff and on his left is Victor Finegan, the factory owner. In the second picture George and wife Beryl, wearing a leopard skin coat, tour the factory floor and watch the sweets being made.
George Formby (1904-61) was undoubtedly the biggest star of his day, reputed to earn £100,000 a year in the late 1930s. He made more than 20 films and during the Second World War it is estimated he played before more than 3 million Allied servicemen, touring the battlefields in North Africa and Europe. At his death, 100,000 lined the route of his funeral cortege in Warrington.
Are you a George Formby fan? Do you have any pictures of him, or any other old time entertainers on visits to the Black Country? Contact email@example.com or write to the usual address.