UK’s oldest joke shop has the last laugh after surviving World War Two and the pandemic

Graham Williams runs the 92-year-old Dinsdales Joke and Trick shops on Hull’s iconic Hepworth Arcade and is determined that it will survive for another generation to enjoy

Graham Williams runs Hull's Dinsdales Joke shop
Graham Williams runs Hull’s Dinsdales Joke shop

The UK’s oldest joke shop continues to provide plenty of laughs despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Graham Williams has worked at Dinsdales Joke and Trick shops on Hull’s iconic Hepworth Arcade since he first stepped into the family business in 1978.

It is now 92 years since George Dinsdale first opened his doors to the public, Hull Live reported.

Speaking about the latest crisis to hit Dinsdales, the Covid-19 pandemic, Graham is characteristically upbeat.

He said: “That first lockdown was great, long walks with the wife, barbeques, glorious weather.

“It was a bit of a taste of retirement for me, I think it gave people a bit of perspective on what is really important in life, for me that was family.

“I won’t say it hasn’t been difficult for the shop though, my wife was asking me what money I was spending while it was closed and I told her ‘yours’.

Graham is an avid joker


Katie Pugh)

“With being closed a while I guess you worry that people might forget about you, in a way we’ve missed a whole generation of kids in those two years who were coming up to the age they’d want to be in here buying jokes and tricks.

“We’re still here though and it is much the same as it ever was for us, I think that is something that people love, they can bring their kids in and get the same experience they got when they were small.”

George was originally a record seller and gramophone repair technician, he would later branch out into books, magazines, bicycles and the novelties and jokes the shop is known for today.

Graham came into the business in 1978 after having been made redundant.

“My grandma worked at the shop and she asked me if I’d like to work the holiday season as there was a shop in Scarborough too,” he said.

“When it came to an end she said I’d got the personality for it and would I like to stay. I think it’s just because I could talk the hind legs off a donkey, I don’t shut up.

“I always say in retail you’ve got 30 seconds to make people comfortable in your shop so I’m always in there with a joke, a ‘how are you’, a smile and a laugh.”

He sells all kinds of jokes and pranks


Katie Pugh)

In amongst the fun and laughter there are some very modern problems that are putting pressure on Dinsdales outside of the various lockdowns.

Shipping issues including the rising price of container space are putting Graham’s profit margins at risk and some of the makers of the novelties in the far east have simply disappeared.

Graham says stock has never been harder to get hold of and with lower footfall in recent years, the business remains on a tight leash.

Despite this, he feels the reputation and pull of Dinsdales will see it survive for another generation to enjoy, one of the stalwart ever-present’s in Hulls shopping scene.

Graham said: “It is different times now with the internet and social media but I think jokes and tricks still have a place.

“And even if it is just a bit of nostalgia, we have people bringing in their children and grandchildren to see us and we’re always wanting to entertain.

“That is the way it carries on, from one generation to the next, we’re still here doing our thing and we will still be here in years to come.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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