GRR

What it’s like to be an impersonator at the Revival

07th July 2022
Ellie Fazan

Graeme Hardy is the man behind some of Goodwood Revival’s best loved characters. Here he tells us how he gets into character – and what you can do to get a great vintage look, too

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“It was purely a bit of fun,” says Graeme Hardy. A Laurel and Hardy fan from a very young age, but he fell into impersonating completely by accident. A local rugby club had a fancy dress event and he and a friend decided to do a double act.

“We won first prize. It snowballed from there.” He’s since performed all over the world, and first appeared at Goodwood Festival of Speed, followed by the Revival, in 2003. But Graeme still has a day job – inspecting Rolls Royce submarine engines.

“I’m mad about cars,” says Graeme, and he doesn’t believe in doing anything half-heartedly. He owns three Ford Ts, like the ones used in the Laurel and Hardy movies, collected especially for the part.

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And his roster of characters has grown too. Some he has even developed especially for Goodwood, including Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari, the Italian racing driver, and George Formby. “Lord March told me that there was a Shuttleworth Snap in the paddock and so we decided that a George Formby tribute was essential.”

After 20 years at the Revival, Graeme still thinks it’s magic. “It's like stepping into another world. It's fantastic. When you get back home and get back to reality it's quite depressing.”

How did you get into impersonating?

Back in the '80s, I used to play a lot of Rugby Union for the local club in Melbourne Derbyshire. They had a fundraising fancy dress event, and it was advertised as a fancy dress party. My girlfriend at the time said that me and my mate should go as Laurel and Hardy – I had been a fan from a very young age – and he happened to have a bowler hat knocking around from my granddad or something. We won first prize. On the basis of that we got asked to perform at the Motorcycle Grand Prix at Donington Park. And it snowballed from there.

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What are your favourite characters that you like to play?

I created George Formby especially for Goodwood, so he’s really special to me. Lord March said we’ve got the Shuttleworth Snap in the Paddock – it’s the motorcycle from a film called No Limit that made George Formby famous. And that gave me an idea. I had a flat tank motorcycle similar to the one George rode in the film and I built the look from that. I’m a big motorcycle fan, and used to race motorbikes when I was younger and I thought it'd be fun. And it is!

Tell us about Tazio…

Tazio Nuvolari the Italian racing car driver was also developed especially for Goodwood. At first I wasn’t sure how it would work, but I said I'll have a look at it and see what I could come up with. I found a picture of him in a magazine and he looked like my grandfather. I showed my girlfriend and she said, “He looks just like you.” So I started reading up on him on the internet and got some books and sort of chose an outfit. He made his first appearance at Goodwood Revival in 2015 and it was very well received.

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How do you make sure that the costumes are authentic?

I'm a stickler for detail. It's got to be right. I've had suits, wing-collared shirts and even shoes made for Stan Lauren, copied exactly from pictures. When you're looking at a character like Nuvolari, you’ve got to read up a lot as there aren’t lots of coloured photos of him, but he was renowned for a red racing leather helmet, a bright yellow top and blue trousers. There were no crash helmets in those days so they’d just wear leather helmets, goggles and a shirt. They must have been very brave men doing 200 mile an hour with a T shirt and leather cap on. It’s crazy.

Beyond reading books and looking at magazines, how'd you get into character?

I watch the films and I can pick up on any mannerisms. And when I’m getting ready – if I’m doing a double act – I bounce a bit off the Oliver Hardy character and his famous sayings. You need to be familiar with what you’re trying to do and stay in character. That means putting mobile phones away! You’ve got to get it right, even down to the little details.

Which of your characters gets the most attention?

Laurel and Hardy was very popular, particularly when we used to arrive in the Ford Model T. Once we were asked to pick up Dame Vera Lynn from the drivers lounge and take it to the air out the Aeropark. When we got in the car, it was so difficult to get through the crowds, because you’re in character and having fun with people but also with a job to do!

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What are some of your favourite aspects of the Revival?

I have been coming for 20 years this year, but every year it’s still just as magical. It's just absolutely unbelievable – how they create a magic atmosphere time and time again. The cars, the looks, the performers and even the guests – it's just fabulous. A very special event.

How would you describe the Revival to someone who hasn't been before and what tips would you give them?

Magical, fantastical, incredible, wonderful. I've never been to an event like it with the detail and the incredible lengths that they go to to get it [just right]. It's like stepping into another world for three days. My advice is book your next Goodwood [Revival] right away!

Join us for a weekend celebrating all things vintage – from Friday 16 September 2022 to Sunday 18 September 2022. Find your Revival tickets here.

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