Variety concerts and dramas recalled by James Reddiough
Lent was the traditional time for no dances in former times. Yet the ballrooms of the country did not remajn silent they merely changed their form of entertainment when the people of the area and surrounding districts took centre stage and became stars for the night. No longer did the dance band or the show band take centre stage but the ballad groups and the dramatic societies were the main people for the night as the punters paid some say admission fee of 2/6 or 3/ for the night. The entertainment usually commenced at 8pm and finished for 11pm.
Children did not have to pay as much and they got in for a 1/ and they could go to the mineral bar during the interval and have a coke and some tayto for a treat but then again these may well have been forbidden during the Lenten season!
The last dance before lent was held on Shrove Tuesday and the week of the shrove and these dances were well advertised in the local paper and there would be no further dances until the announcement was made for the grand dance on St. Patrick’s night and then again the reopening of the dancing season on Easter Sunday.
The variety concert was just that a varied entertainment form with dancers, singers, musicians and actors strutting their stuff to the delight of the people there would be recitations too and there would be a ballad or folk group in later years these variety concerts were held largely during the 1950’s and 1960’s in the halls, community centres and in the schools if the school was undertaking a fund raising drive.
The play was the highlight of the concert and films were shown in some venues also and they would be well attended the westerns were especially popular also. The drama might be a one act or three act they were usually one acts for the variety concert and the three acts would be the sole form of entertainment on another night.
Other entertainments were held on some nights in larger venues like boxing and badminton and the question time or bingo and debates and discussions but the main form of entertainment for the lent and indeed for the advent ibn the weeks leading up to Christmas were the variety concerts and the dramas. They were a highlight in the local entertainment scene and enjoyed by young and old alike and they kept the place vibrant during which could otherwise be a moribund part of the year with the fasting and introspection of the season of preparation and penance.