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Proud of our past….Aynuk and Ayli commemorated in Netherton

Aynuk
Aynuk, alias Alan Smith, at the official opening of the new Aynuk and Ayli Reading Room at Netherton Arts Centre

A room at Netherton Arts Centre has been named after legendary Black Country comic duo Aynuk and Ayli.

The reading room, traditionally used as the bar at the Northfield Road venue, has been renamed the “Aynuk and Ayli Reading Room” by Dudley Council. A plaque was unveiled today ahead of Aynuk’s 80th birthday, while two huge panels now adorn the walls telling the tale of the duo’s rise to fame.

Aynuk, alias Alan Smith, from Netherton, was present for the unveiling along with friends and family.

Deputy leader of the council, Councillor David Vickers, and deputy mayor, Councillor Alan Taylor, also attended on behalf of the authority.

Mr Smith performed as Aynuk from the 1960s right up to the start of the 21st century, with four men taking on the role of Ayli. The last to don the cap was John Plant, who performed alongside Mr Smith for just over 20 years until he died in 2006.

The pair performed to packed theatres, social clubs and pubs across the Black Country and beyond to critical acclaim.

Councillor David Vickers, deputy leader of the council, said:

“We want to show how proud we are of people like this, who have done this for the area and made it famous.

“This particular place, which used to be a cinema, is now used as a performing arts base, where youngsters are taught how to play musical instruments and perform on stage.

“One day perhaps one of them will be the same as Alan, and get out there.

“If they have as much success as he did, that will be fabulous. It’s brilliant to see so many people here to celebrate this new room that is dedicated to Aynuk and Ayli.”

Alan ‘Aynuk’ Smith said:

“Thank you Dudley Council, thank you so much for what you have bestowed on me and my mate, and those that have been with me all those years.

“I feel so proud.”

The comic duo were born in 1964 when Mr Smith was looking for something different for the Cole Street Methodist Church’s annual show in Netherton.

He had the idea to bring to life the two fictional characters Aynuk & Ayli, who were talked about in the late 19th century music halls by Ernie Garner.

Harry Felton was the first Ayli, with John Guest replacing him and performing for over 20 years until Mr Plant took the mantle in the mid-1980s.

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