top of page

The Happy Gang

Helen Morgan-oval.png

By Helen Morgan

Mantlepiece Clock-small.jpg

Published on Facebook 27/06/2022
Last Updated 05/10/2023


What a carry on by local residents to raise funds for worthy causes

Putting on a Show

It must be said that in this day and age of political correctness, some readers of this article may not find it amusing or even comedic. However, be in no doubt that at the time, this type of comedy based on stereotypes and double entendres, was all the rage. Whether on the telly, in your place of work or at home, this sort of humour was comedy gold and goes down as part of our social history.

How did a number of local residents, with no prior theatrical experience, put on these one hit wonders to sell out audiences over ten years? Well let’s start at the beginning. During a race night organised by Sylvia Humphreys for
Children in Need, that in itself was a huge success, an off the cuff remark about putting on a show was said by somebody in a stupid moment, recalled Sylvia. The Heald Green Happy Gang was formed.

The scripts were written by Brian Goode. He was an insurance representative covering a huge area in the north of England and Wales. He would do his writing when pulled in at a layby or in his hotel bedroom when he was away from home. There’s dedication for you. His writing epitomised the comedy from the television like the
Carry On films, Morecambe and Wise and the Two Ronnies.

Brian Goode.jpg

Fig. 1 Brian Goode
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


Alan Streak did the sound production. He worked in the sound/music business and was able to put his expertise to good use.

Alan Streak.jpg

Fig. 2 Alan Streak
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


The costumes were made by a lady called Eileen Spencer. Sylvia described her as “phenomenal with a needle, thread and sewing machine."

Fig. 3 Eileen Spencer
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


Rehearsals were on a Wednesday night that would lead up to a one night only performance. The first one was at the Public Hall, but it was far too small. From then on, the sell-out shows were done at Kingsway School, as it could hold a bigger audience.

A lot of help went on behind the scenes. The wives of the cast, who didn’t want to perform on stage, sold tickets, programmes and refreshments at half time. A raffle was put together by the gang using their unwanted gifts to supplement the proceeds even further.


The Balls of Saint Sinians 1992 BTS.jpg

Fig. 4 Behind The Scenes (from the Balls of Saint Sinians, 1992)
Programme courtesy of Barry Groom

Click On Image To View

Then there were the actors, too numerous to mention. Please look at the programmes for their names. Actors who invariably could not remember their lines and were prompted from the front row by the prompter, Stephen Berry. This just made the production even funnier with remarks like “Shut up I’m acting!” Actors would skip three pages of dialogue, whilst the prompter frantically tried to recover the act!

Stephen Berry.jpg

Fig. 5 Stephen Berry
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


L-R Paul Gill, Bob Hankinson.jpg

Fig. 6 Paul Gill and Bob Hankinson
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


Paul Gill and Bob Hankinson always played the Dames' parts. Paul took it so seriously that he shopped around in Manchester for the largest ladies shoe he could find. He was also extremely short-sighted and had prescription glasses made to fit in with his various costumes. That’s showbiz!

There would always be a segment in the middle. It would be a skit on a children’s TV programme like Bill and Ben or Thunderbirds performed by Paul, Bob and June Jackson. As time went on Brian Goode would purposefully leave a twenty-minute section for them to perform in. Up until dress rehearsal he had no idea what to expect.

Paul Gill.jpg

Fig. 6 Bill - Paul Gill
Photo courtesy of Louise Adams
Click On Image To View


Bob Hankinson.jpg

Fig. 7 Ben - Bob Hankinson
Photo courtesy of Louise Adams
Click On Image To View


June Jackson 2.jpg

Fig. 8 Little Weed - June Jackson
Photo courtesy of Louise Adams
Click On Image To View


Sylvia takes up the story.

“Norman Humphreys and Diane Copeland used to do a cabaret piece that was always a popular song. Diane would sort out all the dance moves and they would practice in our house using the full length of the lounge and dining room. No one ever saw it until the night apart from me. That was something else he couldn’t get right!! It was so funny. I remember the Spanish
Barcelona song (Freddy Mercury and Montserrat Caballe). The girls met every Monday night. We originated from a group of mums who had made handicrafts for Cheadle Etchells Primary School Parents Association for activities like their fayres. Diane asked if anyone had an old velvet full length curtain that she could use, and she wouldn’t cut it up. Invariably one of us did and a royal blue curtain was borrowed. On the night, using a step ladder that was wrapped in the curtain, Diane got higher and higher as the song went on. She ended up towering over Norman.”

Norman said “I thought it would just be the two of us singing against each other. I didn’t have the faintest idea.”

Sylvia recalled other funny moments.

“The very first show featured the song
''When I’m Calling You” [Ed: Indian Love Call] . Diane had made a canoe for herself with ropes on either side, that the stagehands, Ken Morrissey and Pete Wade, pulled back and forth. The other song that comes to mind was the Peter Sellars and Sophia Loren song “Doctor I’m in Trouble” [Ed: Goodness Gracious Me] . There was a bed made up on the stage out of deck chair loungers that collapsed quite unintentionally. She swore that Norman did it deliberately. That left Diane showing her legs off to the audience. She wasn’t bothered though.”


Fig. 9 Diane Copeland and Norman Humphreys
Photo courtesy of Louise Adams
Click On Image To View


Norman laughed, saying “Whoever came to watch knew damn well what to expect. It was a low expectation and we managed to achieve that!!”

After running for 10 years Brian felt he was drying up with new ideas and he had always said that he would only do 10 plays. So ended a very successful run that raised thousands of pounds for good causes such as
Macmillan Nurses, NSPCC, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Bethesda School and Wythenshawe Hospital. Can you believe that the geriatric ward at the hospital had had their televisions pinched, unbelievable!

In the Contact Magazine of Summer 1997 their achievements were recognised. Their last production “Peter Pann” on April 5th had raised £2,000 by itself. Overall, more than £13,000 had been raised  .

During their post-production party, they joked that sometime in the future they may be resurrected…you have been warned!!

Sylvia wished to end with the following.

“The Happy Gang had an extremely good social life. We attended many local dances and many fancy dress parties. We went to concerts and supported all our children’s activities. If the event was out of the area, a coach was hired, fondly known as “Barbara’s Budgy Coach”.

There was definitely no drinking and driving.

Unfortunately, we have lost quite a few members including our leading lady, Diane. Some members have moved out of the area and age and health is catching up with us all. We had and still have some good times with many, many happy memories.”



Photo 40.jpg

Fig. 10 The Happy Gang
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


Heald Green Happy Gang.jpg

Fig. 11 Potted History
Photo courtesy of Sylvia and Norman Humphreys
Click On Image To View


Happy Gang - Amounts Raised.jpg

Fig. 12 Happy Gang - Amounts Raised
Programme courtesy of Barry Groom
Click On Image To View


More photos and programmes can be found in our library under Happy Gang. Before looking, please remember that this was in the days before today’s political correctness. I did not want to redact anything, as history cannot be looked back at through 21st century eyes.

With thanks to Richard Groom and Louise Adams for sending me photos and programmes that recorded their parents’ adventures in the Happy Gang. Thanks also to Sylvia and Norman for their memories.

1. The Editor, Summer 1997, Jottings, Contact Magazine,127,pp

Search Our Museum Library (Google Drive account users only)

Can You Help Us Improve The Museum?

bottom of page