Talking Pictures TV & Renown Festival of TV & Film

❉ Rob Fairclough relives the golden days of entertainment at TPTV’s recent two-day event.

Bonnie Langford. Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

The Talking Pictures TV channel, a Freeview and Freesat service, was brought into public focus by lockdown. It kept us going during that peculiar, flat time by continuing to specialise in vintage, predominantly black and white films and archive TV shows. TP was somehow even more appealing because it was a family firm, set up by Noel Cronin and his daughter Sarah in 2015 and run from Noel’s home. Their website even includes a match-making service – not something you’d find on iPlayer or ITVX.

It was a logical step to transfer the ethos of this family business into an event that TP’s dedicated viewers could attend. The latest, The Talking Pictures and Renown Pictures Festival of TV & Film 2023, took place over the weekend of the 25 – 26 March at the Alban Arena in the heart of St. Albans.

Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

The family atmosphere was certainly in evidence, from the packed lunches prepared by event volunteers, to Noel hosting the various instalments of the event’s quiz. Various sales stalls lined the entrance hall to the auditorium as attendees filed in, adding to the inclusive, companionable atmosphere. Throughout the weekend, Mike Read and Caroline Munroboth presenters on TPwere equally companionable hosts.

One of my pleasing discoveries among the stalls was the The Laurel and Hardy Magazine, a beautifully written and produced journal dedicated to those giants of the black and white film comedy era. It’s overseen by Russ Babidge and Patrick Vasey, who also produce The Laurel and Hardy Podcast. Their most downloaded edition featured the actor Jeffrey Holland talking about his one man play And This is My Friend Mr Laurel, of which more later.

When the on-stage events got underway, I was very taken with the variety acts that were mixed in with the usual run of interviews, which, appropriately, felt like the mix of entertainment and factual programming you’d see on TP TV.

Fay Presto. Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

There was the very funny magician Fay Presto, self-effacing standup comedian Mel Bryon and – the highlight for me – singer Lola Lamour. The epitome of old-fashioned glamour, she opened proceedings with a selection of vintage songs from the 1940s and 1950s. Gamely, while some guests were stuck in traffic, Lola continued singing until the schedule got back on track, the epitome of “the show must go on.

Lola Lamour. Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

You couldn’t fault TP’s choice of guests – a refreshingly feminine bill included Sarah Miles, Valerie Leon, Susan Hampshire, Linda Regan and Bonnie Langford, who combined her interview with a medley of 1960s songs, a nice counterpoint to Lola’s set.

Mike Read and Sarah Miles. Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

Growing up with television in the 1970s, my favourite interview of the weekend was Michael Parkinson, a true living legend of UK broadcasting. A well-chosen selection of clips reminded us what icons of the fabled golden age of Hollywood ‘Parky’ interviewed – among them Orson Welles, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman and James Cagney.

The two Michael Parkinsons. Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

It was moving to see Parkinson so frail, but equally so enthusiastic. The interviewer, his son Michael Parkinson junior, read out his father’s articulate appraisal of his friend, the cricketer Freddie’ Truman, reminding us what a consummate journalist Parkinson was.

The other highlight for me was the excerpt of … And This is My Friend Mr Laurel that Jeffrey Holland performed on Sunday. Set in a hospital room in which Oliver Hardy is recovering from a stroke, the dramatic focus in Stan Laurel reminiscing about his and Ollie’s partnership and significant events in his own life. I’m not that familiar with Jeffrey’s work outside Hi-deHi! (198088), but his performance as Stan was both accurate and profoundly moving, prompting me to tears. I recommend you catch it if you can.

Jeffrey Holland. Photo: © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

As usual, there were chatty meetings over a beer and catching up with friends to doamong them Phil Campbell, who with his chum Brian Reynolds was promoting his book about working for Hammer Films but it’s always nice to go away with a new or refocused interest. This time around, I’ve gone away with a revitalised appreciation of Laurel and Hardy, a renewed love and respect for Michael Parkinson, together with a keenness to see one of Lola’s headline shows.

Thank you, Talking Pictures. I’ll definitely be back.

❉ This year’s Talking Pictures TV & Renown Festival of TV & Film was held at the St Albans Arena on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th March 2023. Talking Pictures TV is available free on the following services: Sky 328, Freeview 81, Freesat 306, Virgin 445.

 Robert Fairclough is a writer, designer, photographer and sometime actor. He writes on a variety of subjects, including mental health and popular culture (sometimes both at once). Robert has written six books, contributes to magazines and websites and is a creative consultant for The Restoration Trust, an organisation that delivers ‘culture therapy’ for people with mental health issues. He can be contacted on and his website can be viewed at

All photographs © Robert Fairclough, 2023.

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