Here’s to Wrawby!

I confess that, until two days ago, I had never heard of the village of Wrawby in north Lincolnshire. And it is even less likely that anyone there would have heard of Stowell, the hamlet in Dorset where I live. How a link between the two places arose is a classic example of internet magic.

I had been asked to do a short entertainment ‘spot’ at a charity lunch, organised in the next village to raise funds for a local hospice. I took it into my head to do a ‘tribute’ piece to Gerard Hoffnung – a humorist, musician and cartoonist who flourished in the 1950s (before dying tragically at the age of 34). In particular, I wanted to reproduce some extracts from a hilarious address he gave at the Oxford Union debating society – a speech which fortunately was recorded at the time. I had a transcript of part of this, but needed a copy of the recording itself to refresh my memory of the whole. And I needed it in a hurry!

So I Googled ‘Hoffnung’ – and got many addresses of sites to visit. There were plenty of biographical notes, and several that offered to sell me CDs of the recordings – but these would not have arrived in time. Then I stumbled upon the website of Wrawby in Lincolnshire – an impressive and efficient site which told me a lot about the village and which included – for some slightly obscure reason – the text of the ‘barrel of bricks’ anecdote that was the highlight of Hoffnung’s speech. It also offered, in return for a small contribution to community funds, the opportunity to download an audio file of the entire speech. In no time I had paid my donation, downloaded the file – and received an encouraging email from Richard Robinson of the Wrawby Internet Dept.

At lunchtime today (18 September) I did my Hoffnung piece – and I think it went down pretty well, even if it did not raise the gales of laughter that greeted the original in Oxford over fifty years ago. So – thank you, Wrawby, and thank you, Richard. If I ever get up your way again (I was in ‘Rebecca’ at the New Theatre in Hull a couple of years ago) I will look you up.

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