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Birds, Comedy and passion in Tring

PUBLISHED: 14:04 24 July 2013 | UPDATED: 14:04 24 July 2013

Ben Moorhouse, Get Stuffed Comedy Club promoter

Ben Moorhouse, Get Stuffed Comedy Club promoter

clive tagg 2013

Set among hills in picturesque Dacorum, Tring may be small, but it is home to some of the county’s most interesting characters, businesses and arts venues. Ewan Foskett explores a town punching above its weight

Away from the bright lights of London’s comedy circuit, Tring has become one of the best places to see stand-up comedians. The Get Stuffed Comedy Club was launched in 2007 and has seen some of the genre’s biggest names tickle funny bones at the town’s Court Theatre. With Rob Brydon, Rhod Gilbert and Milton Jones among the many who have performed there, it’s easy to see why it has such a high reputation.

Ben Moorhouse is one of the team behind the club and is charged with booking the acts and promoting the nights. He said the biggest challenge was building a trustworthy brand to regularly attract both acts and audience.

“It has taken time and a lot of effort. We now host the biggest and best acts around without me having to work as hard as I did at the start to get them. Early highlights include Rob Brydon, Reginald D Hunter, Greg Davies and Mark Watson.’

But getting people to the venue was not always easy. Ben remembers Reginald D Hunter arriving at the venue in a cab from London and asking him to pay the fee. Not a joke, he had to fork out £120.

As well as regular nights there is also an annual three-week comedy festival – the Tringe – which takes place this month (July) featuring dozens of acts, including Richard Herring, Stewart Lee, Russell Kane and Ed Byrne.

Ben who works for the club in his spare time from his day job, said the club is a reflection of the spirit of the place, ‘We’re very much a town that fights way above its size. The comedy audience comes from far and wide - London, the Midlands and beyond in come cases. It’s a hobby, but the comedy club and the Tringe festival will carry on. Hopefully great acts will keep coming.’

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When a museum curator attended a bird collecting conference he was hoping to learn more about his chosen field - little did he know he would fall in love with a fellow enthusiast and move from his homeland.

Hein Van Grouw met his future wife Katrina at a Vienna seminar and upped sticks from Holland to be with her in Tring in 2009.

The bird curator of the Natural History Museum at Tring said, “It was love that brought me here - not love of the bird collection - but my wife.’ The couple had met before at previous bird conferences, but ‘something clicked at the conference and we had to make a decision,’ he adds.

For a while the love birds shared a job at the Victorian museum but soon Hein took over full-time and his wife took on her other love, to become an artist.

The 44-year-old curator and researcher has a particular interest in specimens with unusual plumages in the collection. Formed of the private animal collection of zoologist Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, who founded the museum which was gifted to the nation in 1937, Hein said it has one of the world’s finest collections of birds, after The National History Museum’s bird group was moved here from London in the early 1970s. ‘If you talk about the impact of the collection, the bird collection is definitely one of the most important in the world,’ he says. ‘The people in New York will say “we have more specimens” but in Tring we have more species.’

The museum attracts people not only from around the country but the world, with its highest figures last year, which helps to boost the local economy, Hein says. ‘It definitely brings a lot of people to Tring. There are a lot of people who come to the museum who come to the town centre - it is a very nice place.’

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For the town mayor, there are two moments that sum up Tring. The first was a joyous one, when 5,000 townspeople stood out late into the night to greet the arrival of the Paralympic Torch to the town last year. Bacon butties were handed out, pubs stayed open and a beacon was lit.

A tragic moment also sticks in Roxanne Ransley’s mind. ‘On the sadder side, one of our young men was killed in Afghanistan. His funeral was on November 11 and the whole town came to a standstill,’ she says. The young man was Corporal David Barnsdale, who was killed in 2010 while clearing bombs.

Cllr Ransley adds that the two moments show what a great spirit there is in the town. ‘It has community, good schools and is a great place to bring children up. Tring is small enough that when you walk down town there are people you know who you can speak to, but it’s big enough that not everyone knows your business.’

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