Finding Our Funny Roots

Brendan Hawthorne (Centre) demonstrates his “sot nev”. Watched by, from left to right, Steve Pottinger, Dave Pitt, Emma Purshouse and Alex Vann. Photo by Gary O’Dowd.

Since March volunteers have been poring over archives and interviewing people for the Finding Our Funny Roots project. . The Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists were also running around finding things out, shooting vlogs and wondering what the shows would consist of.

During September Emma Purshouse locked herself away with all the research and produced an excellent script. Dave Pitt then burnt out a laptop or three making the videos and audio transcriptions make sense. Steve Pottinger kept us all together. Balancing everything like a plate spinning diva. We brought along to the party Dr. Brian Dakin for his insights into Black Country dialect and his very close friendship to Billy Spakemon. We brought in Brendan Hawthorne for his skits, comedic timing and loafers. We brought in Josianne and Paul from the University of Wolverhampton for their academia. We, of course, brought in Alex Vann because Alex Vann can do everything. He can communicate in sign language, play a guitar, write songs and help caption videos.

We emerged in the middle of October with something which made sense. We had a hectic day of rehearsals in the University powered on hope, coffee and a desire to share the work.

On the 17th October Creative Black Country and the hard working volunteers (and a few special guests) got to see a preview of the show. Would Pitt’s laptop survive the tech onslaught? Would Alex’s guitar stay in tune? Would Brendan’s loafers become self aware?

The show was a success. When the audience should have laughed, they laughed. When they should have listened, they listened. At the end of the preview people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to stay and discuss the show.

That is always a good sign.

On the 26th October, we performed the show again as part of the Funny Things Festival programme. Guitars stayed in tune, laptops survived and loafers stayed non-sentient. There were more big laughs, lots of entertainment and a warm, appreciative audience. And it was a sell out. It all came together wonderfully.

Yet we didn’t end there. Now the show has been reworked for other audiences and venues. The tech has had to be cut down because not every venue can project video; this also gives Pitt’s laptop and much needed rest.

On Thursday December 12th the show was performed for people at Verona Court in Wolverhampton. It was a splendid afternoon. We had heckling, we had folks beating us to the punchline, we had singing and percussion. After the show we stuck around and had a natter to residents and visitors about their memories of Black Country Comedy. One lady had been a singer and toured with a comedian, another recalled comedy monologues her mother had performed in church. The afternoon was fun and festive, giving an extra seasonal oomph to the Black Country version of the nativity that features in the performance. There were mince pies too!