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 entertainment 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.
There will be an AGM of The Friends of Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust (SCIO) to be held in Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, 113-117 Trongate on Sunday 21st May 2017 at 2pm.
At the meeting we will present a review of the previous years’ activities, introduce you to the new trustees and report our hopes for the future.
During the meeting members will be invited to officially elect and ratify the new board of trustees.
The proceedings will end with a twenty minute film screening of an extract from “Elstree Calling” featuring Teddy Brown, Lily Morris and Will Fyffe.
We are re-open to the public! 2017 promises to be an exciting year for us, so please watch this space!
We are very pleased to announce that we have recently changed legal form to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) which means that we now have the same powers as a company limited by guarantee. We are now a business organisation which will be much more capable of purchasing the building, which we are aiming to do next year.
In Memoriam Frank Holden
Dear friends and followers,
It is with deep sadness that we must report that our dear friend Frank Holden has passed away. Frank did the most amazing Sinatra tribute, and raised over £1,000 for the Britannia Panopticon with his show. We love him and will miss him dearly, but just know that he is doing a duet with Ol' Blue Eyes up in heaven right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.
Finally, a photograph taken by Meredith of Judith cleaning one of our now many toilets just ahead of an event, has been wickedly adapted by me along the lines of Salvador Dali's idea of melting images. Managers everywhere should take note of her leadership style although I think Stacey's management of a previously object floating around the toilet should be celebrated as well. I'm never going to let her forget her brave initiative.
RAISING THE STAGE
PROGRESS DIARY WEEK 1
By John Addison, Graham Hunter and Judith Bowers
Progress Day 1
Jim Cook's highland regiment invaded at 10am on Monday and organised into action plans. Search parties deployed by Jim for materials and parking tickets. Fire Riot Acts read by Judith. Notices posted to avoid organised chaos.
Temporary partition to working area erected and scaffolding put up on top of the lid for access to the grid. Parts of this have been declared unsafe after a lofty level inspection by David Wilmore who has advised netting the grid as a safety precaution. Apart from safety, we run the risk of losing historic ceiling. I have since advised on how to net it and secure the plaster. I did a drawing even.
Some minor and major discoveries are being made by Graham who has combined as Doorman, Field Archaeologist, Unpaid Executive Labourer, Clerk of Works and rescuer of strange, useless and useful objects. This includes bits of wood and the very useful old stage lamps.
The guys have exposed the damage left by the fire which Graham reckons could have been in the 20's but he can't be quoted yet as the evidence is still being assessed.
It made quite a mess up one side. That's my technical assessment. Graham is peeling off the layers of history here.
Progress Day 2
The guys are now ready to load the first of the rubbish skips.
I have briefed Davy the electrician on the needs of the revamped fire escape.
Dust screen and netting going up Thursday (with Kieran working out how to get the screen down at the end) This will be followed by removal of the 1969 box over the toilet block.
And speaking of toilets.... the new old toilets are now open for use, albeit bloody cold, thanks to Judith's very own Willie (Ahem – that’s Willie the plumber)
Today is Clearoot Day No1 with the start of the huge store of 1970 debris being taken out of the building by three of Jim's guys. In this regard, Graham Hunter had the thrill of riding shotgun in Our Very Own Skip Lorry to make sure it arrived at our door. Earlier the lorry driver had insisted on sitting by the Mitchell's corner thus leaving the poor guys to drag dirty heavy stuff a long way. I diplomatically intervened quoting Rude Words in my polite Doric and insisted he moved to a more sensible position. He agreed but only if I got in the cab with him. I refused as I don't do skip lorry rides in Glasgow, so Graham enthusiastically leapt into the navigator's chair and set a compass heading around the block. He reappeared minutes later much to our relief. Much as Graham likes sifting through historic rubbish, the idea of digging himself out of a Glasgow tipsite would be too much. He is back minding the door.
Earlier we captured a tantalising glimpse of part of the original Stage through a hole Kieran made in the original toilet wall.
No doubt more excitement will appear later. For me it's been too much. I'm sticking to theory.
I'm off north for a few days.
So says John Addison leaving Judith to document the rest of the week.
More adventures with a rubbish skip when Judith had to clamber up into the cab of the lorry and direct the driver round the block. The driver then expertly reversed up the New Wynd navigating his way past an illegally parked car (where are traffic wardens when you need them) and 3 wheelie bins.
It was a day of shifting, carrying, loading and hoovering up the mess afterwards with an early finish at 4.20pm.
The boys finished propping the roof of the toilet block so that it was a safe base for them to climb up the scaffold and prepare for the arrival of the flymesh by plywooding the ceiling at the sides (wings) but not painting them black.
Jim Cook arrived exhausted after a week isolated over on Skye and for some reason tried to get Judith to wind up John by telling him that the job would now take 3 months. He said that having arrived in the big city all starry eyed, that's how long his West Coast Builders would take in Glasgow as they get overawed by the smells and sights, attracted to lost skip driving men, wink at strong women, eat pies, read The Sun newspaper and sing fishing songs in an earthy gaelic Music Hall style. Judith (unable to dupe her beloved Jonny for long) texted him the truth and Jim has been forced to repent for his disrespect.
Then theatre culture in the shape of Mark Stevenson from the Royal Conseratoire arrived and had a small tour of what was safe to see and a chat about how the Conservatoire can get involved.
No progress has been made on removing the final obstructions over the stage, however Judith stayed on til 7pm to let them get on with the preparatory work…
.....And John invited his friend Katie Poulter from Scottish Opera to come along and see the New Stage being finished by Jim and his boys dressed in Victorian clothes. She and John are helping with its latest production opening in the Theatre Royal on Thursday. She says she is looking for strong builder blokes joining hands and singing wistfully about catching fish.
We were supposed to be in at 9.30am, today (Valentines day) but we were a little delayed because the owners of the building (the Mitchell family) had some confusion over who was supposed to open – was is Wade or Alan on the morning shift? In the end, Ma Mitchell (the lovely Beverley) turned up and let us in instead.
Pete and Dondald are finishing putting up the netting so the boys can crack on with more dismantling jobs on Monday. Judith gave them a Uriah Heep album to listen to while they work.
By the way, Jim says the netting is not from his lovely wife Wendy's recycled nylons. That's his story.....but if I find a Shades of Grey suspender belt and B+Q handcuffs hanging from the Grid, he is sacked .......builders have ready access to all that stuff.. .... IT'S A FAMILY SHOW PLACE.
The work on revealing our stage has officially begun!
With the water tank moved up into the attic we can now start the task of dismantling the toilet block to reveal the stage. Due to the delicate nature of the project this must be done very carefully and gradually. Not only is a lot of the original architecture quite fragile there is, as the project progresses, the chance of finding artifacts from when the stage was in use.
It’s a very exciting time here as we’re discovering more about the history and structure of the stage. Theatre Archaeologist David Wilmore from Theatre Search came by on Monday to examine the area
above and below the stage. With his help we’ve started to learn a lot more about the structure and progression of the stage during the Panopticon’s time as a fully-functional music hall. For example,
it appears there is not just one stage structure, there are layers built one on top of another. The original platform was a very simple stone structure we think from when it was an assembly hall.
When it was renovated into a more theatre-like space, the stage was widened and a proscenium arch was added.
In preparation for putting up the temporary partition wall that will hide the works from view until we are ready for the grand unveiling, we had to dismantle the chairman’s box. At the front right
of the stage, this structure was used as a till area in the days this building was used as a shop and as the chairman’s box for our Music Hall Memories and Glasgow’s Great War shows. We’re a little
sad to see it go, although it was amusing seeing our regular chairman Graham Hunter take a hammer to it with great enthusiasm.
We’re making use of the access to the area above the stage whilst we have the toilet block. Once it’s gone we won’t be able to access the devices used for hanging scenery, curtains and “tormentors” (yes that’s the real name for them, theatre’s a funny old business) without a huge ladder. We’ve taken the opportunity to take down the old lights, two from the victorian era one from the twenties. We’ve also peeled off some ancient 1920’s wallpaper that will do doubt make it into some artefact frames to be sold to raise funds.
Speaking of which, we still have boards available! For £100 you can sponsor a floorboard for the new stage and have your name engraved upon it forever. Payments can be made through PayPal with a note attached for 'Raise the Stage', or through cheques made payable to Friends of Britannia Panopticon and sent to:
“Raise the Stage”,
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall,
The first month of the new year and things are already off to a flying start here in the Panopticon!
On the 26th we had the great pleasure of showing around Tweedy the Clown, who is an award winning performer with the Cirque Berserk, and his 9 foot tall robot friend. No, seriously. Tweedy is a fan of Stan Laurel who of course made his stage debut in the Britannia Panopticon. He had a great time visiting our little music hall and had the volunteers in stitches the whole time he was here. Stan would be proud.
We also played host to the Strange Blue Dreams, a band shooting their latest music video 'Up To The Stars' in our auditorium. Described by the Glasgow Herald as a mix of “gospel, early rock 'n' roll, R&B, rockabilly and country”, they certainly gained a few new fans from the volunteers here. We absolutely cannot wait to see the finished video and will share it here as soon as it's released.
Finally, we are delighted to announce that work on uncovering the stage is finally underway! We've had builders, engineers, electricians and plumbers in the auditorium planning on how best to remove the toilet block that is over the original stage. Work has just begun to move the water tank up into the attic in preparation for the 1960's toilets being removed, and other toilets being reconnected to the water supply. It's a very exciting time, as the stage has not been seen by anyone since it was blocked off in 1938.
There is still time to sponsor a plank as part of our 'Raise the Stage' campaign! For £100 you can sponsor a floorboard for the new stage and have your name engraved upon it forever. Payments can
be made through PayPal with a note attached for 'Raise the Stage', or through cheques made payable to Friends of Britannia Panopticon and sent to:
“Raise the Stage”,
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall,
1st Floor, 117 Trongate,
The biography of music hall star Gus Elen (1862-1940) has recently been published.
Although he was famous for his portrayal of Cockney characters, his popularity was far from restricted to London, and he had a sentimental attraction to Scotland where he spent shooting and fishing holidays; appearing frequently at the major halls, including the Britannia. He guarded his private life, and it is only through this book, that his close friendship with Harry Lauder is revealed.
More details can be found at www.guselen.co.uk, including an extract from the British Music Hall Society's review which suggests that it "will most likely come to be accepted as the standard work on this important theatrical figure".
This wednesday we had the great pleasure of hosting the book launch for 'Glasgow Interiors' by Helen Kendrick, photographs by Neale Smith. This book features 33 of Glasgow's most interesting buildings - including of course the fabulous Britannia Panopticon Music Hall - and details the city's architectural heritage for the past 150 years. Filled with fascinating history and gorgeous photography, this book is well worth a look if you are interested in, or want to learn more about, Glaswegian architecture.
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall is now proud to be part of "Visit Theatres" a wonderful guide to theatre tours bin Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium. You can find tours and research theatre buildings. For more information, check out visittheatres.org
Coming soon - Frankie Boyle will be hosting a show in Britannia Panopticon Music Hall dissecting the results and aftermath of the Scottish Independence Referendum.
We are looking forward to the show. For more information check out this link.
A way back in March of this year Betty Productions used Britannia Panopticon Music Hall as a location for the filming of "Shop Girls - the True Story of Life Behind the Counter". The segment filmed was about how shop girls spent their time and money when they weren't behind the shop counter. Many of them, of course, going to the music halls with their 'Johnnies'. Judith Bowers was also a part of the documentary series as an interviewee. She also sang a long forgotten tune called 'The Shop Girl' which was part of a 19th century musical theatre piece of the same name and toured the music halls back in the day.
Tune in to BBC 2 at 9pm for the next three Tuesdays.
Riverside Show and STV Glasgow launch
Last night was the launch of a new channel for Scottish Television called STV Glasgow and it's nightly magazine programme, The Riverside Show.
The Riverside Show features all aspects of Glasgow life and on the very first episode Judith Bowers presented a feature about the history of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. Judith has also been asked to present a regular feature about the more obscure, scandalous and intriguing histories of Glasgow, so we will keep you updated about that.
This photograph is a panoramic shot of the studio with Judith in the centre in a green top talking to the Riverside Shows fashion guru, Mark Van-Daal.
To see STV Glasgow, retune your TV recievers to: Freeview Ch23, Sky 117 & Virgin 159
The Riverside Show is on Monday - Friday from 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Achievement Award from Old Theatres Magazine
Saturday the 31st May saw the first music hall show of the season greet a nearly full house for the 1.30pm show. The show was fantastic with the Panopticon Company presenting comedy, monologues, magic, singing, sing-a-longs, trumpet playing, a ukele band and belly dancers! The day was made even more special when the wonderful Johnnie Beattie presented us with an Achievement Award from the Old Theatres Magazine. The award recognises the efforts of Judith Bowers and the team of volunteers who bring the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall to life for all our visitors and continue to campaign for the auditoriums future.
Thank you Old Theatres Magazine! This is our first award and will be treasured forever.
Today's news is that writer and presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli and stand-up comedian Ro Campbell were in the auditorium today recording a feature for BBC Radio Scotland. Ro is a comedian from Australia and he chose our beloved music hall as the location for his interview about his comedy and his inspiration - Scottish comedians. He told how he was brought up on Scottish comedy on Australian TV! How wonderful!
Ro was the 2010 winner of Scottish Comedian of the year. Check him out on google and look out for his show at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Masks and Faces
For all you fans of Music Hall! Janet Muir (pictured here with her husband Hugh) has written a book about her great, great uncle, Harry Braham, who was once a star of the Victorian music halls. Harry performed in the Britannia twice in the 1880's and was a resounding success. He was a comic, actor, singer and minstrel and he travelled the globe, met and performed for royalty, survived a disaster at sea and many, many more adventures. To find our more - buy the book! "Masks and Faces" is available from the 8th May from all good book shops, Amazon and direct from the publisher "Chaplin Books". Or why not come down to the Britannia Panopticon and buy a copy from us - you might even get to meet the author who is a regular and treasured part of the Panopticon Team.
Laurel & Hardy Stolen
Three of our little statues (2 can be seen in the photo) were stolen from Britannia Panopticon on Friday last week. They are not worth a lot of money, but they are part of our little building and treasured by all of us here. Please can you keep an eye out for them and spread the word and help us get them back home again.
Pom Pom Knuffels
Ever on the search for unusual and entertaining ways to raise much needed funds for the Britannia Panopticon campaign, Evy Craig has come up with a classic. The worlds biggest pom pom!
Help Evy Craig make the biggest pom pom in the world! The previous Guinness Book of World Records winner was made by children in Limerick, Ireland. It was 4ft high and 10ft 8 inches in diameter and weighed in at 36 lbs. Bring wool along to Britannia Panopticon and help us make the biggest ever! The completed pom pom will then be auctioned to raise money for The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. We are open Wednesday - Sunday noon - 5pm until 5th April, then Wednesday - Saturday noon - 5pm.
Evy is calling it Pom Pom Knuffel - Knuffel is the Dutch word for cuddle.
If you have any fabulous fund raising ideas like Evy's, let us know.
On Monday 17th March, Lawrence Dunn very kindly drove Judith down to Bolton to collect 22 of the scrapbooks which once belonged to the eccentric, millionaire owner of the Panopticon: A. E. Pickard. These scrapbooks date from 1904 - 1938 approximately and contain receiepts, invoices, cheques, court summons's, contracts, lists of films and acts and all sorts of other personal and business records - all collected and pasted into the many pages by the bold Bradford lad himself.
Norman Slark, from whom we bought the scrapbooks, very kindly gave us an extra one (we were only supposed to buy 21) and sold them to us for an extremely reasonable £600 - the information within them is priceless! In order to purchase the books and return them to Glasgow, £100 was donated by the Gordon Barr and co from the Cinema Theatre Association and £500 was gifted from John Caughie who is in charge of the Cinema Research Project at the University of Glasgow.
The scrapbooks are currently in Britannia Panopticon and will be catalogued at the end of March by a student of museums and archiving, Gillian Moynagh. Once they are catalogued, they will be digitised (hopefully again with the help of John Caughie and the University of Glasgow) so they can be accessed on-line, before being sent to their new home in the old Kelvinhall, which is soon to be the new home for Scottish Screen Archive and the University of Glasgow's special collection (theatre archive), where they will be fully accessible to the general public.
I would like to thank Norman Slark, Lawrence Dunn, John Caughie, Gordon Barr and co for all their help and support in returning Pickard's scrapbooks to their home.
NEWS JUST IN FROM THE THEATRES TRUST
The Theatres Trust of Great Britain (the body which was set up in the 1970's to look after the interests of all theatre auditoriums in the UK - including music halls) has now launched it's Visit Theatres website. Visit Theatres provides a unique guide to theatre tours around Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Pop on and take a look at: www.visittheatres.org
Update on the scrap books
Gordon Barr of the Cinema Theatre Association has agreed to contirbute £100 to the cost of obtaining this unique collection of Pickard's own scrapbooks. We are still trying to gather the rest of the £600 needed to purchase the 21 books which contain receipts, cheques, letters, advertising and a whole host of other information that A. E. Pickard collected between 1904 and 1938.
I cannot begin to tell you how valuable this collection is - to us the information they contain is pricelss. If you would like to contribute something to the Scrapbook fund, please email Judith on email@example.com with the subject heading "scrapbooks".
Thank you Gordon for your kind donation and good luck with the birth of your baby this Sunday (or whenever your little one decides to arrive - let's face it, babies will pop when they are ready).
Tambourines and Salvation
Yes, the Salvation Army are 135 years old this year! As part of the celebrations they will be exhibiting and performing in the Britannia Panopicon Music Hall. The Salavation Army began it's career in the music halls across Britain where the sinful were in abundance and in need of spiritual rescue.
Come along and learn more about the history of William Booth and his Army and if you have any memorabila that might be of interest to the Salavtion Army, please can you email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit by the Students from Garnetbank Primary School
The youngest performers on the bill this week were Mr MacKay's class from Garnetbank Primary School. Judith regaled them with tales from Britannia Panopticon's past and then the class of plucky students donned a hat each from the costume box and gave an entertaining performance of "Henery The Eighth"; a classic song made popular Harry Champion (who performed in Britannia Panopticon in April 1893). The song was originally written in 1910 by Fred Murray and R.P Weston. It was a treat to see these young'uns perform such a classic. To see the video footage check out our Facebook page.
In addition to this wonderful rendition, Judith was also treated to their version of another great classic by George Alex Stevens - "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep". Danny La Rue (who was famous for the song) would have been proud I am sure.
One of the great joys of working in Britannia Panopticon is to see young people learning about and getting involved with the history of music hall.
One Single Tulip
Last week on the 13th February in the Britannia Panopticon, three talented Royal Conservatoire of Scotland students, Rebecca Reeves, Sarah Milne (performers) and Francesa Tomlinson (director) presented a simply hilarious, touching, clever and entertaining 20 minute piece entitled "One single Tulip".
This short play about an old lady and a young lad waiting at a bus stop was created as an examination piece - they will surely pass with flying colours.
An audience of 42 filled the hall with laughter and contributed £92 towards our stage restoration fund. Thank you girls and all of you who showed your support.
Pop onto our face book page to see a short video clip.
Pickard's Scrap Books
A.E. Pickard, the last owner of Britannia Panopticon (1906 - 1938), was a brilliant showman and great self publicist. Having taken over the old "Brit" in 1906, he added carnival, freak show, wax work exhibits and zoo to the entertainments on offer and renamed the building "Panopticon" (Pan= everything + Opti = to see), referring to the fact that you could see everything under the one roof and for the one ticket.
Much of what we know about the Panopticon has been gathered over the years from the archaeology found in the building, various archives, newspapers, journals and the testimonys of some very senior Glaswegians who remember it. However, we could never find any of Pickard's business records, contracts, letters, invoices etc (except for two battered, beaten, water stained old notebooks we found beneath the floorboards) - until, last year, that is.
At the end of 2013 I had the opportunity to see six fantastic scrap books which had belonged to A.E. Pickard and now belong to ephemera collector Norman Slark. He had purchased them at a collectors fair in Blackpool and thought I might be interested in seeing them. He kindly brought them all the way up from Bolton to Glasgow and I was delighted to see the collection of posters, postcards, advertisements, letters and photographs they contained. In fact, my eyes practically popped from my head when I saw the vivid assortment pasted to the aging, green leves.
Sadly the books Norman showed me are not for sale, however, the ones he brought to show me were just part of the collection, he has another 21 of them (which I went to Bolton to see last month) and he has offered to sell them to us so that they can return to there home - the Panopticon. We have now negotiated a price of £600 and Norman has agreed to allow me to scan the scrapbooks he is retaining. Unfortunately we don't have a spare £600 lying about, so I have now contacted a local heritage charity and, keep your fingers crossed, they are going to let me know next week whether they are happy to fund the acquisition.
For bookings and information please contact:
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall
Tel: 0141 553 0840