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Commemorative Cup presented by the B.A.P.C. celebrating the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II"

2 June 1953

see 7.118 and 7.119 for my drawings of the Tivoli stage, which accompany this description of the staging procedures.



The Pantomime company had been formed several years before I took any

active part in it. I can only go back to my hazy memories of my late teens in the late 30s. I am sure there are many people worthy of note whose names I can't recall, and I crave their indulgence!

Of course, Winnie Spencer, the two Peggies (Hughes (married name - Downey) and Griffith), Dick Catherall, Harry Dolby and Peter Wilcock were very well-known to Buckleyites and their names became synonymous with the Panto.


Mr. Albert Lewis was caretaker of the Tivoli at the time, and he dubbed it "The House of Deception". How right he was! Two bakers transformed for two weeks into Alderman Fitzwarren , the other our - squeaky-voiced comedian. A schoolmistress became Prince Charming and the other ladies were other Heroines according to the story being portrayed. In addition there were three lines of Buckley Tillergirls -junior, intermediate and senior all under the "command" of Mrs. Lilian Wilcock, the two Peggies and Doris Howell. Another band of stalwarts worked behind the curtains and between the scenery during the show. This is where I first came in.


The "principal" stagehands I remember best were Dick Hopwood (colliery manager), Fred Dugdale (electricity company employee), Ollive Hayes (pottery owner), Alec Hughes (farmer), Cyril Peters (woodwork teacher), augmented by novices like me. The last-named was my uncle who initiated me to backstage work and making small stage "props". One of the latter was a windmill and it fell to me to be hidden in the "mill" to turn the "sails" while the chorus sang "Tulips from Amsterdam".


For me it was all great fun and we often worked behind the cinema screen while films were showing.


Each year, Mr. Dennis Griffiths (he was manager at Hancock's Brickworks), the "Maestro" of the Panto, took a small party visiting shows - some in London - seeking inspiration which he then moulded to fit the show he had in mind. The music for the show was all arranged and led by Mr. Griffiths. The musicians of the orchestra were all local people.



When the Tivoli closed as a cinema, it was first used as a Bingo hall. In the 1960s, two Buckley brothers, Philip and Noel Tarran, bought the premises, completely refurbished it and re-opened it for social uses. Since then, I have lost track of the ownership but it is now (2002) a popular Nightspot.


I have written the following notes in the present tense, but I expect, all the stage has been done away with, and the notes are years out-of-date.


The pantomime scenery was mostly hired and transported to the Tivoli by Shones Buckley, Ltd. who had big lorries and made regular journeys from Shotton Steel Works to Dagenham. The scenery consisted of canvas cloths, friezes and flats, and usually arrived on a Saturday. The cloths etc were hung on Sunday ready for the off on Monday for two weeks of seven shows (two houses on Saturdays). The cloths were dropped after the second house of the second Saturday ready for loading and taking away the next day.

The first and last days were hectic!

Behind the proscenium curtains, the Tivoli stage has three levels - the stage itself, the flies and the grid.

The flies are wooden platforms 10 ft high 6 or 7 feet wide, which run along the outside walls of the theatre from inside the procenium arch to the back of the stage. Both sides have very sturdy rails on their stage sides, but the fly on the right of the auditorium is seldom, if ever, used except for storage. Both are reached from the stage by short

ladders. The flies are connected to each other by a metal cat-walk along the back wall of the stage from rail to rail. In the centre, a ladder is attached to the wall giving access to the grid. ( This is normally only required when a rope jumps off its pulley).

The grid is what its name implies - wooden rafters spaced apart from back to front of the stage area and bears the pulleys and ropes for the scenery. Above this is the roof.

The stage lighting console is on the left fly and attached to the inside of the proscenium arch.

Along the rail of this fly are several iron cleats fron which the ropes supporting the scenery, lighting battens etc. ascend to the grid. Each piece hangs on three ropes which are grouped together and tied off to the cleats by knots which cannot give way but can be undone quickly. When first hung, the cloths are "deaded off" so that the bottom of the cloth reaches exactly to the stage and can be dropped from out of sight to the stage almost silently. They are then hauled up so that the cloth cannot be seen by the audience and the surplus rope is again tied off to its cleat.

Friezes and lighting battens are hung towards the front of the stage and again adjusted to be out of sight but masking the bottoms of the cloths behind them. Underneath both flies there are wooden forks to hold the tops of the flats.

Flats are rectangular wooden frames covered with canvas, about 10 ft high and 4 ft wide, and slide in and out between the stage and forks to form the sides of scenes. Flats can be joined together if necessary by ropes, hooks and cleats on their undersides.


During shows people can walk along the stage beneath the flies and across the stage between the cloths - provided there is another cloth between them and the audience!


The biggest and most important scenery of a Pantomime is the finale, where the whole cast appears on stage and the grandest Back-cloth is used. This cloth is always hung at the back of the stage.

The Panto is made up of several "turns" which do not call for the use of the whole stage area, such as solo items and dance routines.


The depth of the stage is arranged by having other full length but lighter cloths deaded-off and hung from appropriate cleats to give the space required. Turns are usually arranged alternately for shallow or deep stages. This allows stage-hands to change scenes and props quietly without breaking the continuity of the show under cover of music etc. This is the purpose for the "deading-off" mentioned earlier in the notes, where the second knot on the cleat can be undone and the cloth allowed to drop until the first knot holds it.



Author: Hayes, John Eric, 1918


Year = 1953

Month = June

Day = 2

Event = Historic

Object = Other

Extra = 1950s

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