The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

Recommended Books

Arthur Lloyd's Music hall and Theatre Website

The following books and magazines are highly recommended for anyone interested in Music Hall and Theatre History, along with the architecture and grandeur of the countless Theatres and Music Halls its artistes and patrons inhabited. All these books have been very helpful to me in the creation and growth of this site and form just a small, but recommended, selection of the many other books that have helped to make the site what it is today.

The Theatres Trust Guide to British Theatres

Click here to buy this book at invaluable resource for anyone wishing to look up details of the many hundreds of Theatres, past and present, around the UK. Edited by John Earl and Michael Sell the book also includes details of the many Theatre Architects responsible for these wonderful buildings.

Please Note: I have been generously granted permission to use some extracts from the indispensable book 'The Theatres Trust Guide To British Theatres 1750 -1950, John Earl & Michael Sell', on this website. However, these extracts are copyright and should not be further re-produced without the express permission of the Publishers. The book is available from the publishers, A&C Black (tel 01480 212666).

Click to buy the book at

British Theatres and Music Halls

Click here to buy this book at book outlines the history of theatres and music halls from the late sixteenth century to the present time, noting changing fashions in entertainment and evolving official attitudes to safety that have, at various times, influenced the architectural character of the buildings.

Particular attention is given to the thirty-five years before the First World War, when music hall and variety entertainment developed rapidly, accompanied by a masive surge in theatre building. The account is enlivened with illustrations of theatres, their architects and their audiences.

Click to buy the book at

The Lost World of Music Hall

A Celebration of ten greats by Derek Sculthorpe

The Lost World of Music Hall - A Celebration of ten greats by Derek Sculthorpe.This new book by Derek Sculthorpe is a very interesting read and very nicely illustrated. The book's back cover tells you all you need to know about it's contents so it is transcribed below, highly recommended for anyone interested in Music Hall and the characters who inhabited it.

The fruit of many years' research, this entertaining study charts the changing fortunes of Music Hall in Britain during the early twentieth century through the lives and careers of ten artistes. Each presented some aspect of the national character which made people laugh at themselves. Many, including Lily Morris, Nellie Wallace and Billy Bennett, reached the top of their profession, and even the less well-known performers were once household names. All worked hard to develop their individual acts and found ways to adapt to the massive changes in society wrought by the First World War, the decline of the halls, the advent of Variety, and the shifting demands of an increasingly restless population. Some made a success in revue and others became popular stars of radio. Several of the subjects, such as Norman Long and Charlie Higgins have never been discussed before at such length. Included are many rare photographs, with full discographies, an extensive catalogue of sheet music and monologues for each individual. With the aim of bringing back to life an era and its people, the book serves as an introduction to the roots of modern entertainment.

The Lost World of Music Hall by Derek Sculthorpe is available here.

Malcolm Scott - The Woman Who Knows

By Derek Sculthorpe

Malcolm Scott The Woman Who Knows by Derek SculthorpeAnother of Derek Sculthorpe's fascinating books on early music hall and it's inhabitants, this one focusing on the female impersonator Malcolm Scott who was a giant of his field in the Edwardian era but is today largely forgotten. Derek has fixed this with this lovingly researched book into the man whose sobriquet was 'The Woman Who Knows'.

'Orphaned at thirteen, Malcolm Scott rose to become a leading female impersonator of the Edwardian era. A true eccentric, he first made his name at the Palace and Pavilion theatres in London attired as a female figure of history where he entertained audiences with his highly individual satiric act as "The Woman Who Knows." An acerbic wit, with a surrealist humour, he was in many ways a man ahead of his time. Besides being an actor, he was the doyen of Pierrot shows, and widely acknowledged as one of the finest pantomime dames ever known. In addition, he made several successful world tours and became an early radio personality before his untimely death. With a discography and substantial inventory of credits including all known sheet music and many rare photographs, this extensively-researched monograph is the first ever written about a forgotten great of British entertainment.'

Malcolm Scott The Woman Who Knows by Derek Sculthorpe is available here.

West End in Watercolour

A portrait of London theatre - John Higgins

Click to Buy West End in Watercolour at lavishly illustrated 260 page book is based around John Higgins' own watercolour paintings of London's West End Theatres, and also includes many of London's Fringe Theatres. But this is by no means the only reason to buy this book, as it has both a detailed, informative, and interesting introduction on the history of theatre in the UK, and historical details for each of the Theatres that are illustrated.

An easily readable and very informative book, which is thoughtfully divided into geographical areas, making the West End's often confusing layout far easier to understand and navigate.

John Higgin's watercolours are detailed yet romantic portrayals of the Theatres he clearly loves to visit, and his descriptions of their builds and history are well informed and helpful to any theatre researcher. Highly recommended.

The book is available at here or the publisher's website here, or in person at Foyles in Charing Cross Road and the Samuel French Bookshop at the Royal Court Theatre.

Theatres of Achievement

John Higgins with photographs by Adrian Eggleston

Click to Buy Theatres of Achievement at of Achievement by John Higgins, with photographs by Adrian Eggleston, was first published in 2006 but is still just as relevant to Theatre researchers of today. This 300 page informative and extremely well illustrated book has details of many of the Theatres around the UK.

The book is divided into sections including Early Beginnings, The Great Industrial Cities and Touring, Music Hall and Variety, Seasides and Spas, Repertory Days, and Unusual Houses.

Illustrated with John Higgins' own Watercolours and Adrian Eggleston's wonderful photographs the book has a great deal of information on Britain's theatrical heritage, written in an enjoyable yet informative and knowledgeable style. Highly Recommended.

The book is available at here or the publisher's website here, or in person at Foyles in Charing Cross Road and the Samuel French Bookshop at the Royal Court Theatre.

The Making of Laurel and Hardy by Danny Lawrence

Buy The Making of Laurel and Hardy by Danny Lawrence at Making of Laurel and Hardy is the remarkable factual story of how Stan and Oliver's wonderful comic partnership was born. It begins with their long individual careers, and then examines the extraordinary catalogue of events which transformed them into what was to become the most loved and successful comic partnership of all time. Before the filming of Duck Soup in 1926, Stan and Oliver had occasionally been on screen together, but only whilst pursuing entirely separate careers. Oliver's film career began in 1914, aged 22, and was virtually unbroken although he moved between studios. Stan's professional debut was not in a film studio but on the stage in 1907, aged 16. His first appearance in a film did not follow until 1917. Between then and 1926, his time on film sets was sporadic. He may have starred in most of his early films but, afterwards, had to return to the gruelling life of vaudeville touring, often giving four performances a day, six days a week. He eventually came close to giving up acting altogether. By 1926, even after over 20 years collective experience making films, both men were only moderately successful performers. Moreover, until they arrived on the set of Duck Soup, they had never before been cast as a partnership. Yet that single modest film, created in a two-week period, was to be The Making of Laurel and Hardy. It was Stan who wrote the screenplay for this pivotal silent film. It was not based on new material. On the contrary, the plot and characters came from the sketch, Home from the Honeymoon, which his father Arthur Jefferson had written for the theatre over 20 years earlier. It was not an obvious choice for a silent film because it was full of clever dialogue. Yet, thanks to Arthur Jefferson's sketch, Stan's writing, his and Oliver's comic talents and the natural empathy between them, they were soon on their way to becoming international stars.

No copy of the original film is currently available, but versions are in circulation created from subsequent releases which are incomplete or have different subtitles. The variations between them, in terms of visual content and subtitles, are analysed in detail.

For those of you who like detailed specifications, the book is 308 pages long, in a 9x6 inch format, contains 93,000 words and 97 images, and is now on sale through Amazon for $21.95 in the USA and £16.95 in the UK. It will be available at a comparable price at other Amazon stores around the world.

Buy this Book at

Danny's earlier complementary books (The Making of Stan Laurel. Echoes of a British Boyhood and Arthur Jefferson. Man of the Theatre and Father of Stan Laurel) are still readily available via Amazon.

The Royal Palace Gardens & History of Raikes Hall

Blackpool’s Lost Victorian Pleasure Gardens by David Slattery-Christy, Incorporating original research by Alan Seddon

The Royal Palace Gardens & History of Raikes Hall, Blackpool’s Lost Victorian Pleasure Gardens by David Slattery-Christy, Incorporating original research by Alan Seddon - Click to buy the book at before the famous Tower and Winter Gardens Blackpool’s Royal Palace Gardens at Raikes Hall was a world famous destination for variety and music hall stars and touring exhibitions and battle reenactments like ‘Savage South Africa’ and the ‘Afghan War’.

With its lavish opera house, Indian Pavilion and famous botanical gardens, conservatories and menageries, it covered an area of over 40 acres.

It was the first of Blackpool’s entertainment complexes to be lit using the new electric light in 1891 – a precursor to the famous illuminations. The garden’s history has been air brushed out and fallen into the shadow of its more famous, surviving, landmarks.

This new book by David Slattery-Christy explores the history, along with adverts and images, to bring it back to life, and to highlight again the Royal Palace Gardens and reestablish its rightful place in the town’s history. The book incorporates original research by Alan Seddon.

Click to buy the book at

Too Naked for the Nazis

Wilson, Keppel and Betty

A New Biography by Alan Stafford

Too Naked for the Nazis - Wilson, Keppel and Betty - A New Biography by Alan Stafford - Click to but the book at, Keppel and Betty made their British debut at the London Palladium in August 1932. Not a bad way to start, but they were hardly beginners. Liverpudlian Jack Wilson and Irishman Joe Keppel had spent the previous decade in American vaudeville as a high-energy clog dancing act. But it wasn’t until they teamed up with chorus girl Betty Knox from Kansas that they started receiving rave reviews. Why? Three good reasons – glamour, sand and Egyptology.

Too Naked for the Nazis follows the worldwide adventures of everyone’s favourite sand dancers through American vaudeville, British variety and continental cabaret, right up to their very last summer season on Great Yarmouth’s Wellington Pier in 1962. Keppel was dapper and loved the ladies. Wilson was a scruffbag and extrovert entertainer at the piano. But most remarkable of all was Betty, who went from teenage rebel to dancer to songwriter to journalist to war reporter.

Alan Stafford has documented their busy lives and careers through extensive research, reviews, recollections and rare photographs – plus new interviews with a handful of people who knew them well, including three of the many women who subsequently took on the role of Betty.

Click to but the book at

Let's Get On With It

The Official Biography of Nat Mills & Bobbie - by Randle S. Cutts

Let's Get On With It - The Official Biography of Nat Mills & Bobbie - by Randle S. CuttsRandle S. Cutts is from Prestwich and has always lived near Manchester. His father was the Senior Partner of a building firm maintaining and repairing Manchester and Salford Theatres and Cinemas, and 'brushed shoulders with Frank Randle, Jimmy James and Jimmy Brennan. His Mother used to live almost next door to Will Hay, and played with the Schoolmaster comedian's daughter and son.'

Randle first heard Nat Mills and Bobbie on the radio when he was just a 'youngster' but went on to become a friend of the family for many years, so this lovingly created Biography of the comedy duo Nat Mills and Bobbie is written with a personal and informed knowledge of their lives and career in Music Hall and later Radio, and their worldwide success together for nearly 32 years.

Roberta Macauley, aka Bobbie, was born in Edinburgh and was 'apprenticed to the stage at a very early age as a child actress in lurid melodramas.' Her mother had been one of the famous Gaiety Girls many years earlier. Bobbie later went on to secure the part of Mame in the touring version of 'The Belle of New York'.

Nat Mills on the other hand came from Jewish Russian stock, his father Abraham Miller had managed to escape Russia for England via Germany by disguising himself as a girl to cross the border. Settling in London's East End, he was eventually joined by his wife and four children, when he had enough money to send for them, but their fifth child, a true Cockney, born in Stepney, was Nathaniel Miller, who would leave school at the age of eight to become a variety artist in a 'Juvenile Troup' using the stage name Nat Mills.

The pair met when Nat was working Moody's Night Club in Tottenham Court Road telling gags and impersonating the Music Hall and Variety stars of the day, notably Harry Champion. Bobbie on the other hand was there as the comedienne and leader of a six girl chorus troup. The rest is history as they say, and you can read all about it in this entertaining and lovingly researched book by Randle S. Cutts, which is illustrated with many archive photographs, posters, and programmes from their long career as the comedy duo Nat Mills and Bobbie.

The book is priced £20, including Postage and Packing. To Purchase a copy simply send cash or a cheque to:

Randle Cutts,
1 Avondale Avenue,

The Bread And Butter Tour by Randle S. Cutts

The Bread And Butter Tour by Randle S. CuttsBilled as 'A Theatrical Journey Through The North West' this entertaining and nostalgic book by Randle S. Cutts, who grew up in the suburbs of Manchester during the war, and began going to the Theatre there at an early age, is compiled by a man with an evident passion for northern variety and the buildings which housed it.

As a regular 'Punter' Randle soon became curious about the workings of the variety circuits themselves, and the acts that toured them, discovering that the Broadhead Circuit, which for all who worked its Theatres regularly was known as the 'Bread and Butter Tour', because although it didn't pay very much, its acts were continuously in work. It was the major circuit in the North West at the time, with 16 Theatre and two major houses, the Hulme Hippodrome and Playhouse Theatres, all within easy reach of each other.

This lovingly created book is packed with information and images on the Theatres of the North West along with their artists and managers, including photographs, playbills, posters, and even some technical details, and of course the author's own personal reminiscences of the pantomimes, plays, variety shows, and acts he was lucky enough to witness in them during the last years of the post war boom of the variety circuits.

The book is priced £15, including Postage and Packing. To Purchase a copy simply send cash or a cheque to:

Randle Cutts,
1 Avondale Avenue,

The Token Book By P & B R Withers

The Token Book By P & B R WithersPaul Withers has sent in a number of images of very rare Music Hall and Theatre Tokens for display on the site over the years, and his new book, illustrated in colour throughout, with over 3,050 catalogue entries, and more than 2,500 illustrations, will be available soon in a limited edition of 250 copies.

If you are interested in purchasing this book please visit this page on the the Galata Website.

Ena Dayne By Colin Charman

A new book on Ena Dayne by Colin Charman. - Click to buy the Book at new book on Ena Dayne by Colin Charman.

"The brief shining of a music hall star and the light cast of the Vink, Pridmore and Charman Families"

Colin Charman writes:- 'The idea behind the book (apart from the family history bit) is to give an insight into the lesser lights - once prominent but now forgotten - and how their lives / career differ from those of the more well known and well documented peers.'

Click to buy the Book at

Edna May By Charles Pascoe

Edna May By Charles Pascoe'Born of a humble background, a young Syracuse, New York girl would go on to conquer the hearts of not just the Americans and English, but just about the whole world. She crossed the ocean and had the most influential, powerful and wealthy of men seek her affection. Every nobleman would dine her and every socialite invited her for tea. Her picture was in every shop in London. She won fame and fortune by being The Belle of New York. And in the midst of her stardom, Edna May never forgot who she was or where she came from.'

Charles Pascoe's 148 page biographical and pictorial book on the life and career of Edna May is available from his own website here.

The Other National Theatre by Robert Whelan

The Other National Theatre by Robert Whelan  - Click to buy the book at Whelan has very kindly sent me a copy of his wonderful book on the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and it has already proved to be incredibly useful and informative resource, let alone an entertaining read. With over 500 pages it covers the complete history of this world famous Theatre, from its earliest incarnation in 1663 to today, and is meticulously well researched and handsomely illustrated. The back cover says it all:-

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, is a remarkable place. It's Nell Gwynne in The Conquest of Granada and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady; it's the china scene in The Country Wife and the screen scene in The School for Scandal; it's David Garrick as Richard III and Carlo the dog jumping into a tank of water in The Caravan; it's Dora Jordan showing her legs in As You Like It and Ivor Novello showing his profile in Glamorous Night; Madame Vestris dragged up as Don Giovanni and Dan Leno dragged up as Mother Goose; Grimaldi falling through a trapdoor and fracturing his collarbone and Edmund Kean delaying the curtain for Venice Preserv'd because 'I always take a shag before the play begins'; Isaac Van Amburgh's lions and the first production in English of The Magic Flute; it's pantomimes with 500 people on the stage and the first British performance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde; it's horses running the Derby, the Two Thousand Guineas and Ben Hur's chariot race; it's The Bohemian Girl and Miss Saigon; 'Rule Britannia' and 'O'l' Man River'. It's the theatre where Aaron Hill was locked out by rebellious actors, where actors led by the rebellious Theophilus Cibber were locked out by the management and where Sheridan was locked in until he completed The Critic; where Sarah Siddons made George III cry and Ivor Novello made Queen Mary cry. It's the theatre where Shakespeare spelt ruin and Byron bankruptcy, but managers still put them on because it might just work this time. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, was regarded as the National Theatre for hundreds of years before there was such an institution. It gets no money from the government, it does eight shows a week, and you might get a ticket if you turn up tonight.'

If you want to know anything about the last 350 years of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, then in my opinion this is a great place to start. As easy to read as it is entertaining and informative, from a writer who really loves his subject, highly recommended. The book was first published by Jacob Tonson in 2013, more details can be found here.

Click to buy the book at

The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley, by Robert V. Kenny

The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley, by Robert V. Kenny - Click to  buy the book at the 1930s and 40s, Arthur Lucan and his wife Kitty McShane were among the highest-paid and most admired variety artistes in Britain. They packed theatres throughout the land, and made a series of zany films with Arthur as the washerwoman Old Mother Riley, and Kitty as her daughter. But fame and fortune went to Kitty’s head, and offstage she made Arthur’s life hell; he died - in costume - in May 1954, one week before he was due to appear in court as a bankrupt.

The story of the tears behind the Lucans’ onstage laughter is told here in greater detail than hitherto, demolishing legends, re-assessing the comic genius of Arthur, and revealing the sadness of alcoholic Kitty, who lies today in a forgotten, unmarked grave. 428pp, 19 illustrations.

Publisher: BearManor Media, Albany, USA
ISBN-10: 1593937717
ISBN-13: 978-1593937713

Click to buy the book at

Visit Robert's Arthur Lucan Facebook page.

A Cockney at Work

The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs, by Peter Norris

A Cockney at Work. The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs, by Peter Norris.A substantial study of Gus Elen has been long overdue, and a void in the history of music hall has at last been filled. A Cockney at Work. The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs, by Peter Norris reminds us of the performer's significance.

Often, old time music hall material is too readily branded as 'social comment', when much of it was straightforward entertainment, but when we turn to Gus Elen we need have no misgivings. He delivered many of his songs in a heavily satirical mood of class awareness through the voice of his cockney characters, and his extraordinary talent set him apart as a glittering star.

The book reveals much about Gus Elen's private life, which he guarded from the public gaze, and sets this in the context of the developing music hall. Particular attention is paid to his work, and explanations are given of many of his cockney song lyrics, which humorously reflect events in the broader society. To add to the enjoyment of this aspect of the story, the book comes with a specially produced CD of the singer's original recordings, with tracks arranged in the same order that they are referred to.

The British Music Hall Society's review suggests that the book will most likely come to be accepted as the standard work on this important theatrical figure. The book can be purchased from the author's website at where more details can also be found.

Remembering Revudeville 1932 - 1964 by Jill Millard Shapiro

Compiled by ‘ex Windmill girl’ Jill Millard Shapiro
Published by Obscuriosity Press

Remembering Revudeville 1932 - 1964 by Jill Millard Shapiro -  Click to buy this book at the 31st of October 1964 a very British institution took its final bow. That was the night of the Windmill's farewell performance and when the curtain fell for the last time on London's world famous little theatre, and the stage door locked shut behind its keeper, the Windmill's heart stopped beating. All that was left was the lingering smell of a good cigar, the ghost of a fan dancer, the last faint echoes of laughter and applause, and then darkness. After 32 years the Windmill had breathed its last breath. Or had it? No one could have predicted that half a century later, in the year 2014, the world would still remember with affection the Windmill Theatre with its famous comedians and its legendary Windmill Girls.

Fifty years on, in the public's heart, this particular British institution "Never Closed". This full colour hardback special edition book commemorates the Windmill on the fifty year anniversary of the theatre's closure. With over 600 illustrations (photographs and ephemera), stories and contributions from ex Windmillite Barry Cryer OBE, Windmill girls and boys who danced on through the blitz and many more, this book will remind those who were there of the phenomenon that was the Windmill, and give those who weren't the feeling of having visited the theatre that famously never closed.

Click to buy the book at

Remembering Revudeville 1932 - 1964 by Jill Millard Shapiro -  Click to buy this book at

Funny Bones

My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies

Funny Bones - My Life in Comedy by Freddie Davies - Click to buy this book at 1964 a single appearance on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks made "Parrotface" comedian Freddie Davies famous overnight. Spectacular success followed, working with stars such as Judy Garland and Cliff Richard. Even Cary Grant was a fan. But when it all began to slip in the eighties Freddie reinvented himself in order to stay in the business he loved. He became a producer, coping with the tantrums and egos of performers like Russ Conway. Then a business disaster forced him to start all over again, and he took to the high seas on cruise ships with an entirely new act for American audiences. Returning to the UK, Freddie forged yet another career, this time as an actor, appearing to great acclaim in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of The Secret Garden and cult film Funny Bones, based on tales of Freddie's grandfather, comedian Jack Herbert. And now Freddie has come full circle, delighting audiences once again with Samuel Tweet in theatres up and down the country. Fifty years on from his television debut, Freddie finally tells his own story, revealing for the first time the tragedy behind his early days in Salford and the family secret which later rocked his world. He also takes us behind the scenes at Butlins, where he worked with fellow Redcoat Dave Allen, and paints a vivid and hilarious picture of his gruelling apprenticeship in the Northern clubs - and the night "Parrotface" first spluttered into life. A poignant and hilarious evocation of a vanished world, with unique insights into the art of stand-up, Funny Bones is a richly nostalgic treat for comedy connoisseurs. It is also a heartwarming tribute to Freddie's grandad, forgotten variety comedian Jack Herbert, the man who ignited the passion for comedy which would drive the amazing career of the unique Freddie Davies.

Freddie's book is availiable from his publishers at Stage One Productions - You can also buy the book at

After The pictuires by Keith G. Rose

Buy 'After The Pictures' by Keith G. Rose at Rose, who has been a regular contributor to this site over the years, has spent the last 5 years creating an almost encyclopedic history of Liverpool's Cinemas for this new book, 'After the Pictures', which is a wonderful collection of historical information and images for Liverpool's Cinemas, and some Theatres which were turned over to Cinema use, most of which are now lost to memory. The book has a a vast amount of wonderful historic images and is Highly Recommended.

The book's summary reads: The number of cinemas in the Liverpool area peaked at over ninety and this book tells the story of the rise and fall of them, plus their eventual fate. An A to Z gallery of the picture houses gives brief details of each one, along with external, internal views and ephemera. As a bonus there are four case studies, which detail the politics behind their creation and the reasons for their demise.

With hundreds of pictures, some in colour, plus line drawings and paperwork, this is a must for anybody who was a cinemagoer, or who just wants to see what we had and then lost. Five years in the making, this is the end product to share the memories of a vanished era.

After The Pictures by Keith G. Rose is Published by Alba Printers Ltd. Dumfries, Scotland Softback, 193 pages, A4, ISBN 13:978-0-9554737-2-2 Price £16. 99. Buy this book at

Britain Had Talent

A History of Variety Theatre by Oliver Double

Britain Had Talent by Oliver Double - Click to buy the book at new book by Oliver Double on the history of Variety Theatre will be of interest to anyone who remembers it, or would like to know more about it. It covers the whole period from its early beginnings as the successor to Music Hall, right up to its demise in the 50s and 60s, and the beginning of Television's dominance over it. There are two main sections to the book, firstly the history of variety itself, and secondly what it consisted of, and the personalities who made it happen. There is also a small section entitled 'Variety Now' which explains how the form is still hanging on in various ways and places against all the odds. Although the book is mainly textual it does have some nice illustrations and there is a wealth of well indexed information here from someone who really knows variety inside out, highly recommended.

Click to buy the book at

The book is published by Pelgrave Macmillan and the jacket's 'blurb' follows:

'In the first half of the twentieth century, variety theatre ran through the centre of British cultural life like the lettering in seaside rock. Hundreds and thousands of people up and down the country flocked to fill Hippodromes, Empires and Palaces to see a string of variety acts. From singers to acrobats, jugglers to comics, dancers to ventriloquists, magicians to performing animals and nude acts, the variety show packed out twice nightly shows, six days a week at its height.

Britain Had Talent tells the fascinating story of variety theatre, tracing its origins from the low-lit taverns of the Victorian era, how it evolved in the face of competition from cinema and radio, through to its decline during the 1950s.

A Legacy for now - Oliver Double provides an engaging, vivid and detailed history of variety and explores its performance dynamics and techniques. The resilience and versatility of variety theatre is a testament to its place in popular culture and Double ably demonstrates the strength of variety's legacy with its influences on the birth of stand-up, the rock gig, acts like punk singer Ian Drury — not to mention providing the basic template for the current hit TV show Britain's Got Talent.

A rich line-up - Former comedian Oliver Double has drawn on a wealth of research materials including rare footage, contemporary reviews, trade magazines and antique theatre programmes — and has interviewed veteran performers like Vera Lynn, Ronnie Ronalde, the Beverley Sisters, Roy Hudd, Barry Cryer, and the glamorous strongwoman Joan Rhodes — to create a lively and detailed account of this fascinating and phenomenally popular theatre form.'

The Alhambra Glasgow by Graeme Smith

The complete history of the Glasgow Alhambra is told for the first time, in full colour, with 400 illustrations, in this new quality-bound softback book by Graeme Smith and is highly recommended.Famous for glamour and humour, variety, pantomime, musicals, ballet, opera, drama and dance the immense ALHAMBRA THEATRE stayed ahead of other theatres. Opening in 1910, at the corner of Waterloo Street and Wellington Street, and designed by eminent architect Sir John James Burnet, its managing director Sir Alfred Butt gave “the best of European and American Vaudeville attractions” in the “Resort of the Elite.” Its founders supported cinema, jazz, cabaret and ballrooms.

The Alhambra and other Theatres in Glasgow city centre also feature in a wider work by Graeme Smith titled 'Glasgow's Blythswood' published in 2021, Click for further details.The complete history of the Glasgow Alhambra is told for the first time, in full colour, with 400 illustrations, in this new quality-bound softback book by Graeme Smith, shown left, and is highly recommended.

The book is priced just £20 and can be found in all good bookstores and online at the book's own website - ISBN 978-0955942013.

The Alhambra and other Theatres in Glasgow city centre also feature in a wider work by Graeme Smith titled 'Glasgow's Blythswood' publishing in 2021, shown right; further details here

Graeme Smith is also the author of the book 'The Theatre Royal Entertaining A Nation' shown below.

The Theatre Royal Entertaining A Nation by Graeme Smith

The Theatre Royal Entertaining A Nation by Graeme SmithGraeme Smith's book 'The Theatre Royal, Entertaining A Nation' - From Cowcaddens to the Colosseum, from Hope Street to Hollywood... for entertainment, drama, pantomime, music and song, this is the fascinating story, fully illustrated, of the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.

Available from for £19.95 Post Free.

Graeme Smith is also the author of the book 'Alhambra Glasgow' shown above.


The History of the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

A THEATRE FOR ALL SEASONS The History of the Everyman Theatre, CheltenhamThis new book by Michael Hasted with a foreword by Steven Berkoff will be published on the 30th of September 2011 by Northern Arts Publications, an imprint of Jeremy Mills Publishing Ltd.

Hardback, 196 pages, lavishly illustrated with more than 200 pictures, full colour throughout. Price £17.99.

ISBN 9781906600617

Click to buy the book at

More information about the book is available at its website here.

Coventry's Forgotten Theatre

The Theatre Royal and Empire

Click here to buy this book at Bottle is the author of 'Coventry's Forgotten Theatre, The Theatre Royal and Empire' published by Badger Press, in which he describes the Theatre's fascinating history in detail and includes glimpses of other Coventry Theatres and Music Halls, with an informative background of nineteenth Century English Provincial Theatre.

Click to buy the book at

Mr Phipp's Theatre

The Sensational Story of Eastbourne's Royal Hippodrome

Click the cover to buy the book at highly recommend this new book by Mark Jones and John Pick which describes in detail "The Sensational Story of Eastbourne's Royal Hippodrome" - formerly Eastbourne Theatre Royal. The books sets the story against a social history of the town and contains a Foreword by Peter Longman, director of The Theatres Trust

Click to buy the book at

British Music Hall

An Illustrated History - By Richard Anthony Baker

Richard Anthony Baker's new 300 page illustrated book on British Music Hall comes highly recommended for newcomers and experts alike.

Click to buy the book at

Frank Matcham & Co

Frank Matcham & CoThis Book About The Famous Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, edited by David Wilmore with an introduction by Alan Bennett and essays by John Earl, Görel Garlick, Iain Mackintosh, Andrew Saint, Michael Sell & David Wilmore. With 237 pages and over 100 illustrations in both colour and black and white the book is published by Theatreshire Books, Dacre Hall, Dacre, North Yorkshire, HG3 4ET. Hardback Price £30 + £5 p&p.


Click here to buy this book at book celebrates the working buildings at the heart of the British theatrical industry. Focusing on the theatres in the West End, it looks at their architecture and history as well as examining what it is that constitutes a West End theatre.

Apart from the expected wonderful pictures of Auditoriums, and the Grand Entrances and Bars, this book has a plethora of pictures of the hidden areas inside London's West End Theatres, including The Grid, Fly Tower, Understage, Wardrobe, Stage Management Areas, Dressing Rooms, Stage Doors, Lighting and Sound, even a Thunder Run. Highly Recommended. M.L. 2004.

Click to buy the book at

A Boy From Nowhere

David Mitchell has contributed a number of interesting articles for this site over the years and his book of memories detailing the life of a boy born to a poor family in London’s East End Docklands is a fascinating read and full of first hand information. Included are descriptions of the conditions of poverty which existed in pre-war times in the East End, what life was like then, and how the situation changed when war was declared on 3rd September 1939. There are also many mentions of David's favourite East End Theatres and what went on in them. More information on David's own website here.

David Mitchell's 'A Boy From Nowhere' is available from Melrose Books or online from various distributors. - Click to buy this book at

A Biography of Charles Kay 'One of Life's Great Charmers'

A Biography of Charles Kay - Click to buy the book on Kay was at first a Sporting Legend and Olympic Gold Medalist, but later on became a Music Hall and Variety Artist, Song Writer, Comedian, Actor and Touring Theatre Company Manager who played at venues throughout the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand for more than twenty years.

Michael Fairley's new biography of his Grandfather is a well researched and passionate homage to a man he never met, but had heard so much about. Here you will find a nicely illustrated and no holds barred account of this talented and resourceful man, known affectionately by Michael Fairley as 'One of Life's Great Charmers'.

Click to buy the book on

Old Theatres of the Midlands

Terry Kirtland's 'Old Theatres of the Midlands,' with a foreword by Ken Dodd, is a fascinating and well illustrated book looking at the many Theatres, past and present, that have been part of the Midland's Theatrical scene.

Terry details each Theatre's history and illustrates them with a plethora of wonderful images you probably won't have seen before. Highly recommended.

Available from the Old Theatres Website for £10 plus P&P.


Old Theatres Magazine

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Following the success of Terry Kirtland's book 'Old Theatres of the Midlands' (shown above), a thrice yearly Magazine was later produced by Terry, and edited by Ted Bottle, called 'Old Theatres Magazine'.

The Magazine was published regularly between 2009 and 2018, with 31 issues being published altogether, the front covers of which can be seen in the slideshow shown right.

Sadly Terry's ill health eventually meant that the magazine had to cease publication in 2018.

However, Terry's enthusiasm for Britain's surviving and long lost Theatres is still evident in the wealth of published material he has produced over the years.

Three beautiful highly collectable editions were produced each year, under the Patronage of Ken Dodd OBE, Duggie Chapman MBE, and by Nick Thomas, Chairman of Qdos Entertainment, the world's most prolific pantomime producer.