Papers relating to English concert parties and pierrot shows

Reference and contact details: GB 29 MS 225
Title: Papers relating to English concert parties and pierrot shows
Dates of Creation: 1900s-1970s
Held at: University of Exeter
Extent: Two boxes
Name of Creator: Unknown
Language of Material: English.
Level of Description: fonds

Hastings & St. Leonards souvenir programme utographer phot of pierrot troupe, 'Shorefield Gardens, 1916'
Images courtesy University of Exeter Library (Special Collections.

Administrative/Biographical History

Concert parties are an alternative name for what is more commonly known as pierrot shows. Originating in France, the character of Pierrot in the familiar white baggy costume was created by Giuseppe Giratoni c1665. Pierrot arrived in England in 1891, with his popularity established by the French mime play L'Enfant Prodique which ran at the Prince of Wales' Theatre. The first English Pierrot troupe began c1895, making its debut at the Henley Regatta. Closely allied to Minstrel shows, the pierrot shows pioneered a new form of British popular theatre, and consisted of songs, dances, comic sketches and occasional monologues. The shows were performed in the open, giving them the name of alfresco concert parties. By 1910, troupes were taking the shows on tour rather than remaining in one resort for the summer season. Famous touring shows included The Fol-de-Rols, Twinkle, and The Co-Optimists. By the end of the 1920s, permanent wooden stages were often used with proper seating for the audience, or pier pavilions and other permanent theatre buildings were used if available. The pierrot shows flourished in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, only waning in popularity with the summer show, which featured television stars, dancers and big bands. Probably the only remnants of this particular form of variety performance surviving today are the Redcoat entertainers at Butlin Holiday Camps, and the Black and White Minstrel Show.

Scope and Content

This small collection contains over 250 items relating to English concert parties and pier entertainments, including reviews, press cuttings, programmes, play bills, handouts, artists' cards, call sheets, costume design for Pelissier's Potted Pageant, miscellaneous notes and photographs (many signed). Items relating to major touring companies are included (Catlin's Royal Pierrots, The Fol-de-Rols, Gaytime, Billie Manders' Quaintesques, Edgar Taylor's Lavender Follies, Clarkson Rose's Twinkle), as well as for other smaller companies. A thorough history of the genre is also contained in Pom-poms and Ruffles: the Story of Northern Seaside Entertainment, C.J. Mellor, 1966.

System of Arrangement

Arranged as organised by the bookseller.

Custodial History

Allegedly accumulated by a former pierrot. Purchased from a bookseller via a member of the Drama Dept., University of Exeter 1977. Transferred from the Reserve Collection in 2003.

Access Conditions

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Copyright/Reproduction

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Finding Aids

A sales catalogue giving an introduction and historical background to the collection and its research significance was included with the collection. This is available on request from the Archivist.

Related Units of Description

Archival materials relating to pierrot performers are held at the Greater Manchester County Record Office, University of Bristol (Theatre Collection), North Shields Local Studies Collection (Theatrical Archive), and the Angus Local Studies Collection (Angus Archives Theatrical Collection). A songbook relating to Andie Cain's Royal Filey pierrot entertainers is held at Crimlisk Fisher Archive, and the records of the Eastbourne Pier Co. Ltd. held at East Sussex Record Office include some mention of pierrot shows. Many programmes relating to pierrot shows are listed on the UK performing arts database Backstage.

Publication Note

Not known.

Archivist's Note

Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 22 April 2004, and encoded into EAD 2 June 2004. Historical information has been taken from the sale catalogue of the collection, 1977, which is available on request from the Archivist.