Recovered Hancock's Half Hour to air for star's centenary

Friday 26th April 2024, 8:10pm

Tony Hancock. Credit: BBC

BBC Radio 4 Extra has announced a 5-hour programming block to mark comedian Tony Hancock's centenary.

The key item in the schedule - airing on Sunday 12th May 2024, 100 years to the date of his birth - is hitherto lost Hancock's Half Hour episode A Visit To Swansea.

Still missing its first two minutes, the episode has not been heard since its first broadcast, on 10th May 1955.

Due to Hancock's real-life disappearance overseas amidst a bout of stress, he missed the first three episodes of his eponymous radio sitcom's second series, and was replaced by the BBC with fellow comic Harry Secombe. Returning to London in time for Episode 4, writers Galton & Simpson penned the episode around him visiting Secombe at his south Wales home to thank him for stepping in.

All three episodes featuring Secombe are missing from the archives, with A Visit To Swansea recovered by radio enthusiast organisation Radio Circle in 2023.

The programme will be broadcast at 6:15pm on Sunday 12th May, and also features Bill Kerr, Sidney James, Andree Melly and Kenneth Williams.

Running from 5 to 10pm, the centenary line-up also features the 2014 compilation Steve Punt's Hancock Cuttings, which includes the first ever episode of Hancock's Half Hour and an edition of Educating Archie, alongside further rare sketches and appearance of Hancock in early '50s episodes of Star Bill and Calling All Forces.

Notably, the first programme in the evening's schedule is a previously lost edition of Star Bill from the week after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in June 1953. Also written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the variety programme stars Hancock with Graham Stark, Geraldine McEwan, and special guest appearance by comedian Ted Ray.

Other stars to feature across the night include Terry-Thomas, Moira Lister, Peter Brough, Julie Andrews and Charlie Chester.

The centenary programming will be introduced by Jim Lee, joined by Martin Gibbons, president of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society.

Further information about the line-up and timings can be found on the BBC website.

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