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Sharon's Review (2000)

I had no idea what to expect but was not apprehensive, after all how bad could an evening with Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and a host of other Geordies be?

We arrived at the Hall in plenty of time (about 6:45). Straight down to the bar and we saw Tim Healy, Brendan Healy, Mike Elliott and a host of others that we recognised but didn't know. We may also have seen "wor Marjorie" but can't be sure of that. From the accents around us it seemed that we were the only foreigners (not from the North East) there. There were no programmes available so we had no idea what form the evening would take or who would be there, but it was so exciting we didn't care.

We took our seats at about 7:20 and were happy to discover that we were in the front row of the side

balcony. The lights went down shortly after 7:30 and the tune Blaydon Races bellowed around the hall (what an amazing feeling). After a couple of minutes the lights went up and Tim Healy appeared in his Sammy Johnson T shirt and jeans, to introduce the show. Tim told us how Sammy (Ronnie) Johnson was his best friend and how he and Jimmy Nail had discussed what they could do in his memory, thus "The Sammy Johnson Memorial Fund" was born.

Ronnie had been in a band 'Pigmeat' and they were there to play a number. This was closely followed by the first of 3 'Auf Wiedersehn Pet' sketches starring Kevin Whately, Jimmy Nail and Tim Healy. Given that this is my favourite comedy series ever and I have seen every episode several times I thought that the evening couldn't possibly get any better, I was wrong. What followed can only be described as awe-inspiring.

Jimmy Nail sang 2 songs including 'Big River', there were 2 more 'Auf Wiedersehn Pet' sketches, a reading from a Thomas Hadaway novel (one of Ronnie's favourites), music from the McNally band, stand up comedy from Mike Elliott and a less than sober but very amusing Brendan Healy, music from Lindisfarne, a comedy sketch from Denise Welch, Gillian Taylforth, Peter Beardsley and Janice Battersby and a couple of monologues.

It seems that everyone loved Ronnie and were choked to talk about him. One of the most touching tributes came from Val McLane who told how she'd acted in plays with Ronnie since the 1970's. She had thought of doing an extract from one of them but said she couldn't do it without him. Instead she decided to sing one of his favourite blues songs. The delivery was fantastic, singing is obviously a family trait. When she had finished she got off the stool to leave the stage and...