Britannia Panopticon
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News Spring 2023

Britannia Panopticon

 The Glasgow International Comedy Festival has been back in Britannia Panopticon with the first full programme of events since 2019 and we are pleased to say that with social distancing no longer necessary we are back to being able to accommodate 100 people for all of our shows. Drag-Opticon is back, along with our monthly Comedy Club. Laurel and Hardy films return with the Sons of the Desert on the 5th April and on Thursday May 4th (May the 4th be with you) we will have our annual screening of the classic silent sci-fi, Metropolis, complete with live band and foley artists providing the sound effects. We are also pleased to announce our new monthly market Second-hand Rose’s Second-hand, Vintage and Handmade Sale, which is the third Saturday of every month from noon – 5pm. The Panopticon Team are also planning sing-along movies, family events and much more, so keep an eye on our What’s On page and social media for updates and if there is anything you would like to see us do, please drop us a line to [email protected].

Dragged Tae the Steamie goes on Tour

After last year’s sell out success of Dragged tae the Steamie, the steamie crew will be dragging themselves across Scotland on tour. Dragged Tae The Steamie is the official authorised Drag adaptation of The Steamie written by Tony Roper with Songs by Dave Anderson and with the characters portrayed by actors in drag. Sadly, Lucky Jim, who played Dolly in 2022, is unable to join the tour, but we are delighted to announce that Darren Brownlie who is known for, The James Gang, Dregs, Meet the Magoons, Being Victor and of course, River City, will be taking on the role. If you would like to be a sponsor or buy advertising space in the Dragged Tae the Steamie tour programme, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]

The songs in this touring production will be pre-recorded by Lisa Le Grove and Margaret Woods with Dorothy Paul.


We have some fantastic new merchandise now available in the Music Hall. Designed and made by Debbie McCall, they are a wonderful addition to our merchandise stall and a great way to support the ongoing work of the Friends of Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. The tee shirts will soon be available in various sizes and the tote bags are fantastic quality. If you wish to purchase online, please pop an email to [email protected]

Springing Back into Life

Britannia Panopticon

At last, it seems that life is returning to normal, and it’s a good thing too as in February I celebrated 25 years since I started campaigning, fundraising and awareness raising for our beloved little music hall. It is no secret that it was love at first sight when I first managed to sneak a peek above a false ceiling (now long gone) to gaze into the balcony which was completely intact, though covered with pigeon poo. Since then, a lot has changed, the false ceiling is gone, the roof was repaired, the façade and west elevation restored, and the stage brought back into working condition. I felt that we were just starting to get somewhere, when suddenly Covid-19 happened, and we had to close the old music hall again. We have been closed for so long, I was worried we wouldn’t be able to afford to open again, and I can’t say that we are out of the woods yet. Visitor numbers are still low and attendance to our shows is not yet what it was pre-pandemic, so if you do have a pound to spare, please donate it to our Go-Fund-Me campaign.

But I am so pleased to announce that we are back open for shows and as a visitor attraction. It seems such a long time since we were able to open for our full program and we are excited to see our audiences slowly coming back in. We have just finished the Glasgow International Comedy Festival which included the return of Silent films with resident live band, Gladstone’s Bag, lead by our very own Chairman of the board, Lawrence Dunn. It was a glorious sunny day and many of our supporters left the sunshine to join us for Buster Keaton’s incredible classic “The General”. Lawrence and Gladstone’s Bag will return on May 4th with Fritz Lang’s immortal science fiction classic “Metropolis”. May the 4th be with you!

Laurel and Hardy fans returned last night for the first screening in two and a half years of Laurel and Hardy films. Laughter rang through the music hall as fans from four Tents* of the Sons of the Desert joined us and there were a few new faces in the audience too! And a member of the James Finlayson society. If you missed it, don’t worry, the “Sons” will be back in June with another hilarious collection of films from the two and only, Laurel and Hardy.
*The Sons of the Desert are the official Laurel and Hardy fan club, and each club is called a Tent.

The General at the Panopticon

Britannia Panopticon

The Panopticon was showing films right from 25th August 1896. As cinema became more popular than music hall, A. E. Pickard, the owner from 1906, sold the building in May 1919 to the newly formed company “Britannia Pictures”. In December of that year it is being referred to as the Panopticon Theatre with lectures, and a new pianist, J. F. Macarthur, is announced. On 18th April 1920, another lecture “The Children's Red Day” is advertised at the Panopticon Theatre, The Glasgow Post Office Directory of 1920-1921 gives the building's name as Britannia Pictures Ltd. The Bioscope of 17th August 1921 reports that the Panopticon was at that time undergoing “extensive alterations”.

The Bioscope of Thursday 22nd September 1921 refers to Harry Boyle as "the new manager of the Tron Cinema". The most popular films shown there seem to have been the boxing films. There are adverts in the Daily Record for "Bob Beckett vs Boy McCormick" 19th September 1921, "Johnny Basham vs Kid Lewis" 17th October 1921 and "Kid Lewis vs Boy McCormick" 28th November 1921 . The film of the Beckett/McCormick match is called by the Pall Mall Gazette of 17th September 1921 “without doubt the best fighting film we have seen”.

The film of the Lewis/McCormick fight is available on Youtube - 17th November 1921 at the Royal Albert Hall. In June 1922 it was damaged by fire; evidence of this can still be seen at the side of the stage. In March 1923 a new manager took over; Johnny Hamilton. In September 1924 Britannia Pictures went into liquidation, but that month Kinematograph Weekly speaks about “the opening date” of the Panopticon. This may mean that it ceased to be called the Tron Cinema, and reverted to the name Panopticon; there do not seem to be any more references to the Tron Cinema after September 1924, other than the Glasgow Post Office Directory of 1926/27 . A ledger from 1924 currently on display in the auditorium gives the attendance at another boxing film " Tommy Milligan vs Kid Lewis" 26th November 1924. There seem to have been two houses on Friday 28th November (attendance – 1931), and Saturday 29th November (attendance 3419) . The attendance figures are far higher than in the rest of the ledger. Other films mentioned in the ledger are “Skid Proof” (Saturday18th October – attendance 1222) and “The Gunfighter” (Monday 13th October – attendance 956) In February 1925 Britannia Pictures (in voluntary liquidation) paid the Final Dividend to shareholders


Britannia Panopticon

Finally, after months of pandemic forced closure, we are pleased to announce that the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall will reopen to the public on Tuesday 28th September from which time the opening hours will be as follows:

Day Time Last Admission
TUESDAY 11am - 5pm 4:30pm
WEDNESDAY 11am - 5pm 4:30pm
THURSDAY 11am - 5pm 4:30pm
FRIDAY 11am - 5pm 4:30pm
SATURDAY 11am - 5pm 4:30pm

We look forward to welcoming you back to Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. Stay safe and we hope to see you soon.

As Britannia Panopticon is not subsidised (like Glasgow Museums), we will now be charging a small admission fee from the 28th September 2021.

Admission charge: £5 adults & £2 children

If you are a subscribing supporter or member of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall your admission is free of charge. If you are not a subscribing supporter or member and would like to become one, please click “Support Us” on the bottom left corner of your screen.

Booking in advance is not necessary.

Due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic we will still be observing the following rules to help keep everyone safe:

Please wear a mask if you are not exempt

Please observe social distancing

Please only visit if you have had a negative Rapid Antigen Test within 48 hours before your visit

Please do not visit us if you are feeling unwell or have a temperature

We also have some fabulous shows starting from October, please check our events and for any queries you can call us on 0141 553 0840 or email us at [email protected]

Sadly, we do not yet have disabled access and there are two flights of stairs up to the music hall.

Panopticon Jokes

Britannia Panopticon

Here's some of our wonderful team tell some cracking jokes

We're back in the building!

Britannia Panopticon

Though not yet open to the public.

It was such a joy to see our beloved music hall again after so many long months. In 24 years I had never been away for more than three weeks. You will be pleased to hear she (the buildings) is still standing. Yesterday the big clean up and reorganise began in the Panopticon. Desi, Graham, Grant, Chris (a new volunteer) and me (Judith), went in masked and socially distanced. Today's focus; packing up the wardrobe department into many, many laundry bags. We'll be back in tomorrow to continue the work. I will post again soon with a progress report.

#SaveOurTheatres - Britannia Panopticon

Britannia Panopticon

With no pantomime to shake our buckets at, we've decided to virtually shake our buckets
#SaveOurTheatres - Britannia Panopticon Music Hall
This fundraiser is to cover the short fall in our funding and ensure that we will reopen in 2021.

Every year we hold a bucket shake at our pantomime which raises us over £1,000 in vital funds. This year due to the global pandemic, we are unable to do this. We are facing a loss of income from ticket sales, merchandise and bar, as well as missing out on the opportunity for a traditional bucket collection. This is why we’d like to invite you to take part in a Virtual Bucket Collection this panto season.

Every year these donations are essential for ensuring that we have enough money to reopen in the spring and this year it's more important than ever. Please help us make sure that Britannia Panopticon isn't closed again.

Reopening for visitors 2nd August 2020

Britannia Panopticon

Dear Friends and Followers,
We are delighted to announce that we will be reopening Britannia Panopticon for visitors on Sunday 2nd August. Due to the Covid-19 guidance for visitor attractions, though, we have had to make some changes to how we allow access to the music hall and exhibition.

1. We will now be charging £3 admission (free for children under 14 years old) If you pay £5 you also get one of our special moustache masks (which cost £5 if you buy them from our merchandise stall or online)

2. All visits must be booked and paid for in advance. Times available are Sundays at 12 noon, 13.00, 14.00 & 15.00. Bookings can be made by emailing [email protected]

3. Bookings should be made by 16.00hours on the Friday before your visit.

4. Places are limited, please book early to avoid disappointment.

5. Please be aware that in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to protect volunteers and other visitors, no-one will be admitted without a face covering.

Dear visitors, friends and followers,

Britannia Panopticon

In this uncertain time of COVID-19, we want to reassure you that the health and safety of our visitors and team members remains our number one priority. As part of dealing with this situation and to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have been enforcing guidelines set out by the World Health Organization and Health Protection Scotland, by heightening our usual high standards of cleaning. All of our team members have been briefed in methods of prevention and we will continue to maintain best practise. In the event that any of our shows are cancelled, we we will try and reschedule any affected events. If we are unable to reschedule we ask that you to accept a credit note for future events.

Please understand that we rely on our ticket sales and bar sales to keep Britannia Panopticon open and further the campaign. We are a charity and hope that you will support us by not asking for a refund. Credit notes will not have an expiry date and will be valid for any of our future shows. Please remember, everything we do in the Britannia Panopticon is fundraising for the world’s oldest surviving music hall.

Please be assured that we aim to limit any disruption to our programme of events. For updates, please Keep an eye on our Facebook page and website. We hope to see you soon,


Britannia Panopticon

Join us for an evening of comedy, music and whisky as we celebrate Scotland's favourite poet - Robert Burns.

Our Burns Night show returns on the 25th of January after the success of our first ever Burns Night show on 25th January 2019. And again we will be doing a wonderful dinner deal with Avant Garde for anyone looking to have their Scotch Broth, Haggis, Neeps and Tatties before the show! (Vegetarian options also available)

We had such incredible feedback at the last show and we have a wonderful line up ready to entertain you with some Scottish themed performances! Of course Burns music and Poetry! There will also be a whisky tasting stall, ready to tantalise your taste buds and a fun raffle to help fundraise for the building.

Here comes old Father Christmas

Britannia Panopticon

"Here Comes Old Father Christmas" is one of the first commercial Christmas songs, written and performed by music hall star, Harry Champion in 1915 who is more known for his songs, "Any old Iron", "Boiled beef and carrots" and " I'm Henery the eighth I am". He also performed at this very Music Hall in 1893!

Buy our charity Christmas single!
"Here Comes Old Father Christmas"
Sung by the Panopticon Warblers accompanied by Gladstone's Bag.
Only 99p!


Baby it's cold inside!

Britannia Panopticon

Panopticon winter survival guide.

Well the cold weather is here and we still haven't got any heating. So, if you are joining us over the coming winter months for Panto, Burns night, comedy clubs, Dragopticon or any of our other events, please:

1. Wrap up warmly
2. Bring a blanket
3. Bring a hot water bottle
4. Bring hand warmers

We do have blankets and a limited supply of hot water bottles but do come prepared.

New date for Ghost Stories show Added!

Britannia Panopticon

Ghost stories from around the world returns on November the 8th at 7.30pm for another evening of ghostly tales. The 26th of October show sold out in two weeks and due to popular demand another was added. Expect lots of tales of terror perfect for this spooky season! There will be a mixture of plays, storytelling and music to get you the Halloween mood even in November! And what better place to have ghostly tales than in the Panopticon where ghosts dwell in the darkened corners of the victorian Music Hall.

Prepared to be scared!

Grab your tickets HERE

Doors Open Day Festival!

Britannia Panopticon

16-22 September 2019

Every year Glasgow opens its doors so that everyone can discover Glasgow's wonderful architecture and culture.

Come explore the World's Oldest Surviving Music hall. We will be open as usual 12-5pm where our volunteers will regale you with the history and tales of the Panoptiocon. There will also be new merchandise available at our shop and on Friday 20th you can watch Stan and Ollie at 7pm! tickets available at:


Britannia Panopticon

My name is Alana Duvey and I produce, host and perform at ‘The Drag-Opticon Show’ here in the beautiful Britannia Panopticon Music Hall

It’s such a joy creating this show every month and always something our guest performers, our audiences and I really look forward to.

Part of what makes our show a little different from other drag shows in and around the city is the stunning setting that the Panopticon provides. You can tell the building was once a sight to behold back in the day and although it has been through a lot since its opening way back in the 1850s to the present day from fires to neglect I feel it is still a sight to behold even now. There’s just something about being able to see the charred remains etc. that I love so much. There’s a certain beauty in destruction. It’s certainly a far cry from the pubs and clubs of the usual drag shows with its lovely big stage providing us with a platform where we are able to bring performances to our audiences you wouldn’t see elsewhere.

I always feel it is such an honour to perform on the same stage as the many iconic stars of the Panopticon past and present from the original dancing girls and singers to Stan Laurel of ‘Laurel and Hardy’ fame to the likes of Tony Roper and local drag legend Sally Starshine. I like to think that my little event is now a part of Panopticon history and one day its stars will be mentioned in the same sentences as these amazing performers and the rest. I always get a special feeling in my heart whenever I’m performing here and imagine anyone else who is lucky enough to perform here also gets that same fuzzy feeling that I do.

The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall – a majestic attraction in the heart of Glasgow

Britannia Panopticon

We recently did a collaboration with myhotelbreak on why their guests should visit us here at the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. Find out what they discovered below:

When looking for the perfect hotel break it’s always great having notable and interesting attractions nearby. For guests looking for hotels in Glasgow we recommend taking an afternoon or evening out and discovering the Britannia Panopticon, the world’ oldest surviving music hall.

Let’s find out more…

Situated in the historic Trongate area in Glasgow, this music hall is worth a visit and more. The Britannia was established centuries ago around the 1850’s. In its early day’s it was the centre of entertainnt for Glasgow’s working class. Glaswegians would flock to the then called Britannia Music Hall to be entertained. It was a place where they could forget about their harsh living conditions and enjoy the moment. In those times, the entertainers would get booed off stage, laughed at or even worse if they didn’t live up to their billing.

As time changed, the Music Hall moved on to become more than just an entertainment centre for Glasgow’s working class. Under the management of Mr & Mrs Rossborough, gone were the Show Girl shows and the venue flourished into one of the most popular venues in the city of Glasgow.

The music hall was transformed with a facelift and it breathed new life into Britannia. Acts including Dan Leno, George Leybourne, The Great Vance, Jenny Hill, Bessie Bellwood, Harry Champion, WF Frame, Marie Lloyd and more all graced their presence here.

The Panopticon was strong and survived both world wars and the depression of the 1930’s but by the latter part of that decade, a new form of entertainment became popular, the art deco cinema. At this point the Britannia found it hard to compete with so much competition.

Today, the music hall is run by a charitable trust who endeavour to preserve the Britannia Panopitcon Music Hall.

Please click here to learn more of the history on this magical venue.

There are several events held here throughout the year. Check out what events are taking place over the next few months.

By visiting here you learn not only what the venue used to be like but visitors can have an understanding of Glasgow culture and why it’s important that an attraction like this stays open.

Enjoy something different on your next visit to Glasgow at the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall.

Panopticon Trust

Britannia Panopticon

Raising funds to purchase and restore the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow

Our vision is to fully restore the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall as a public building owned by the Panopticon Trust, operating sustainably as a venue for live performance, arts and the community with music hall at its heart, telling the story of Glasgow’s working-class social and entertainment history.

We area new building preservation trust formed in December 2018. Over the next five years have a target to raise £1m through a new capital appeal to build a Panopticon Capital Restoration Fund to help us purchase the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. We will announce details of how to donate to the Restoration Fund soon.

Playing Stan Laurel in the Glasgow Panopticon

Britannia Panopticon

It all started back in march when I first received the call from Colin MacGregor about playing Stan Laurel and Performing “trail of the lonesome pine” and “at the ball, That’s all” as pre show entertainment to “Two on the Roof” by Shug the dug productions in the Britannia panopticon. At first I was excited but extremely nervous because I had never performed on stage prior to this as I usually do more Film/TV work.

I was given a brief about the history of the panopticon and the iconic characters to tread the boards and immediately realised it was a opportunity I couldn’t miss out on. I began reading more about laurel and hardy as well as watching some of the old movies and the recent “Stan and Ollie” movie as I wanted to be able to portray Stan laurel as best I could. Especially after reading he had his debut on stage in the panopticon.

I felt so honoured not only to have been given the opportunity to portray such an iconic character, and tred the same boards he once did, but also to perform in the famous britannia panopticon. I had an amazing experience and I’m so truly grateful to have been given this massive opportunity.

Chris J W Healy, Actor/Model

Journey of a Trustee by Deepika Bhardwaj

Britannia Panopticon

The Britannia Panopticon Musical Hall (BPMH) is a unique venue which combines a vintage vibe with an almost ethereal quality. You can almost hear the old age echo of laughter from frivolity of ages past. This is one of the reasons I decided to volunteer in the first place along with encouragement from other volunteers who were convinced I would enjoy it and they were not wrong. 5 years later, I have got involved in a range of events and shows that the BPMH put on. The annual Halloween shows being one of my favourites where I get involved in performance, script writing and supporting other volunteers during rehearsals and show nights. It is a fabulous show with a variety of acts and always sells out. The buzz of the night, chatter of the public as they arrive and step back in time to experience a show in the oldest music hall in the world.

After years of volunteering, I decided to become a Trustee and sit on the board for the Friends of Panopticon Musical Hall Trust as I wanted to be part of helping shape the future direction of the BPMH. It has given me an opportunity to make suggestions and offer ideas that further promote and advertise the BPMH to the public. For example, I helped organise a Robert Burns themed event over two nights to celebrate our national Bard. We had a strong advertising campaign in which we partnered with a neighbouring restaurant to offer a show ticket and Burn’s supper deal which sold out. We has also had some air time on BBC Scotland which gave us the opportunity to advertise the BMPH and the Burn’s event. The nights comprised whiskey tasting, a variety of Burn’s inspired acts and raffles prizes. Both nights were a roaring success so we now plan to run this event annually. Increasing awareness of the cultural and historical significance of the BPMH is crucial to its survival and lasting legacy.

I have so far enjoyed my time as a Trustee and currently involved in a range of other projects. I look forward to the future and hope the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall continues to stand the test of time for another 100 years and beyond!

Friends of Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust

Britannia Panopticon

20th Anniversary

In 1997 Judith Bowers started a campaign to raise awareness to the plight of the world’s oldest, and at that time mostly forgotten, music hall, Britannia Panopticon. Within a year more people had joined the cause and in 1999 this little group had formed into the Friends of Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust, receiving its charitable status on May 15th 1999.

The initial board included Judith Bowers, Graham Hunter (who is still a trustee), David Carter Fergusson, Robin Cuthbertson, Finlay Mclay (who is now Judith’s husband), and Robin Cameron - who was the first chairman; a position that he held until August 2015.


Gladstone's Bag

Britannia Panopticon

Gladstone’s Bag is our in-house orchestra and has performed and produced fundraising events for us numerous times.

Gladstone’s Bag was originally formed in 1993, by Lawrence Dunn, to play popular light classical music from the Victorian era, and their first engagement was to play at an event celebrating the 125th anniversary of the building of Crieff Hydro. Since then, they have performed throughout Scotland with their Victorian programmes and have also ventured into the 20th-century with their programmes of "music from the wireless". They have performed several times at the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow, as part of their Music Hall afternoons, giving concerts.

They also specialise in playing scores for silent films and have played regularly during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at the Panopticon and during the Bo'ness Silent Film Festival. Much of the music they use was composed in the 1910s and 1920s specifically for performance with silent films. Where possible they use the original cue-sheets. They have played for short films by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle as well as feature films including "Metropolis", "Nosferatu", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and Hitchcock's "The Lodger".