18 Sep Spotlight on Victoria Theatre
Opened on 8th February 1901 the Victoria Hall, as it was originally named, was designed as a concert hall by architect William Clement Williams in ‘Baroque Revival’ style and features extensive decorative carvings by local stonemasons, many celebrating the art of music. Cherubs happily play flute and cymbals above the junction of Powell and Fountain Streets, instruments are depicted in other places on the Commercial Street side and the names of twelve composers adorn the length of the building. Some of these remain household names but others, such as Thomas Arne, known now only as the composer of ‘Rule Britannia’, are largely forgotten. The striking figures above the main entrance are generalised representations of the muses, the inspirational goddesses that the Ancient Greeks believed to be the source of scientific, literary and artistic knowledge. Interesting that this temple to high culture would soon be operating mainly as a cinema.
‘I bet you didn’t know’
On the 17 October 1967 the police had to be called to the Victoria to persuade 300 people to leave the theatre after the management oversold tickets? The source of this fractious over sell-out was a slimming gala organised by the orange producers, Outspan, hosted by the hugely popular TV personality, Judith Chalmers. The problems of star ‘apeel’ perhaps.
Your favourite person associated with the building:
Too many to mention! But a list would include Black American singer, film star and political activist, Paul Robeson, who appeared in 1939, Shirley Bassey, who drew sell-out audiences in October and December 1960 and Ken Dodd, a frequent visitor up until 2016.