The film that starred Norfolk, and 350 geese

A scene from the 1984 film Laughterhouse

A scene from the 1984 film Laughterhouse - Credit: Archant

It was a film which was a celebration of Norfolk, was first shown in Norwich, starring no fewer than 350 geese... and now, 30 years after its release, is being shown again.

Filming the 1984 film Laughterhouse at Hooks Farm, Letton.

Filming the 1984 film Laughterhouse at Hooks Farm, Letton. - Credit: Archant

In 1984, the wonderful wrestler-turned-actor the late Brian Glover told a packed house at the ABC Cinema on Prince of Wales Road: 'Laughterhouse is a celebration of Norfolk, it's a beautiful place, a county of skies and churches, and the film reflects that.'

And some years later Ian Holm said he had fond memories of his Norfolk experience and that... 'the journey with the geese was exhilarating'.

Hooks Farm in the sleepy village of Letton, five miles from Dereham, became a hive of activity in February of 1984 when the film company's cast and crew descended on it.

The farm, then run by John and Muriel Searle, was to provide the location for the opening scenes in a comedy drama called Laughterhouse, or in America, Singleton's Pluck.

Brenda Vaughan holds the film poster at Hooks Farm in letton.

Brenda Vaughan holds the film poster at Hooks Farm in letton. - Credit: Archant

To mark its the 30th anniversary this movie, which was also filmed at Old Buckenham and other parts of East Anglia, will be screened by the Regal Experience this coming Sunday.

With a script written by Glover, it tells the story of a Norfolk farmer, played by Holm, who decides to drive his geese to London's Smithfield Market because of union-controlled transport difficulties.

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Penelope Wilton, now of Downton Abbey fame, plays the farmer's wife, while Bill Owen and Richard Hope, who on leaving school had been involved at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, were cast as farm workers.

But perhaps the main stars of the film were the 350 geese, which were supplied by the late John Adlard of Norfolk Geese, Chestnut Farm, Pulham Market, and trained by Jeremy and Erica Hart of Rushell, near Diss.

John was the founder chairman of the British Goose Producers' Association.

After exploring the Norfolk countryside to find a suitably antiquated farm, the film people settled on Hooks Farm, which dates from around 1560.

Brenda Vaughan, John Searle's daughter who now lives there, remembers that although it was February, extra mud was brought in to give a more run-down rural appearance – and John's tractor, which is seen in the film, is still in daily use today.

The winter weather was bitterly cold and Bill Owen wore two pairs of thermal underwear, one of which he pinched from Richard Hope!

After enjoying the Searles' hospitality the cast and crew moved on to Old Buckenham, where a scene was shot on the green with villagers playing their part in the background.

Several other East Anglian locations were used on the way from Letton to London and, although their feet were tarred, the geese didn't walk much.

Two cattle trucks were used to carry them from one stop to the next and on reaching the capital they were driven from Paternoster Square to St Paul's – much to the amazement of tourists from around the world clicking their cameras.

Some locals were invited to a preview at the Odeon, Leicester Square, but a charity premiere was held at the old ABC Cinema in Norwich on July 19 1984.

Those attending included the Lord Mayor Stan Petersen and his wife Pam together with Brian and ten readers of the Evening News who won pairs of tickets to the screening and got special Laughterhouse T shirts. Among them was Ann Bennett of Wymondham who said: 'It was an enjoyable occasion, especially with the Norfolk connections.'

On Sunday afternoon, starting at 2.30pm, the Regal Experience from Wymondham is showing Laughterhouse, described as 'The Impossible Dream of an Impossible Man' at the Ex-Services Club (the old Regal) along with an exhibition about the film, along with a short comedy called Mr H is Late and starring the likes of Eric Sykes and Spike Milligan.

Tickets are available from Maureen Dodman (01953 605593) or Michael Armstrong (01953 603246) and at Simply Cards, Market Street, Wymondham. They cost £5 (concessions £4).

With thanks to Philip Yaxley.

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