ELHAS Meeting Report - October 2013

Meeting Report October 2013

This month 49 members and guests were delighted to welcome back one of our regular speakers Ken Goor. Ken, a Leeds guide for over 28 years, has been keeping us entertained with his vast knowledge of Leeds for the last six years and we always look forward to his talks. The subject this time was "That's Entertainment", a look at the cinemas and theatres of Leeds over the years. Ken introduced his talk as a walk round Leeds and so we started out in City Square where he recalled spending Saturday afternoons in the News Theatre adjoining the New Station whilst his mother shopped. Moving over the road to the Majestic he told us how this cinema was famous for long running shows, citing the two years and five months run of "The Sound of Music" as an example. Whilst regaling us with anecdotes of all the major Leeds cinemas he also mentioned other forms of entertainment such as competitions and talent shows in the pubs, including a competition held in the Golden Cock to find three matching duck eggs! .

Moving on to the theatres he told stories spanning the centuries. A telling story from 1789 regarding Sarah Siddons had his audience giggling. It was the custom at that time to allow customers in to the theatre at half price for the second half of the performance. Most of these had spent the early part of the evening drinking and so were somewhat merry on arrival. Sarah Siddons was so outraged at the audience's behaviour, that she stormed off the stage saying "Farewell ye brutes and forever, I trust you will never torture me again."

Speaking of the theatres he told how many stalwarts of the twentieth century first found fame in Leeds. Notable amongst these were Bud Flanagan, Harry Lauder and Frankie Vaughan. He even described how Frankie (formerly Ableson) acquired his stage name. After a performance at the City Varieties his grandmother, (a Russian émigré), rushed to the front of the theatre declaring, "Frankie one day you will be number Von".

It was his description of a significant event in the history of the City Varieties that really brought the house down. After a falling off of audiences for the traditional variety shows the theatre sought to improve its finances by introducing strip shows. Originally the artistes were not allowed to move during performances. But along came the momentous day when this rule was relaxed. However strict standards still had to be maintained and the theatre was full of the police, the Leeds watch committee and representatives of all the churches to ensure that no breach of the regulations occurred. With the help of a ' volunteer ' from the audience he described how, seated on a bicycle, Peaches Paige sailed gaily across the stage propelled by a push from a stage hand in the wings without moving a muscle , so ensuring propriety was maintained!. As usual, we had thoroughly enjoyed Ken's talk and wait eagerly for his next appearance.

The next meeting on Monday 25th November will be an illustrated talk by Alan Pugh entitled "Beckett Street Cemetery: Victorian Leeds told by the People buried there."