Remembering Dundee’s Music Halls: Entertaining Dundee from the 1840s to the Great War

Remembering Dundee’s Music Halls:  Entertaining Dundee from the 1840s to the Great War

Dates: 25 April to 31 May 2024 at Dundee Central Library

From Springthorpe’s to the Gaiety, the People’s Palace to McFarland’s Theatre of Varieties, Dundee had a long and rich history of music hall entertainment.

Now a new exhibition, shedding light on this vibrant aspect of the city's past and featuring rare posters from the era, is set to open at the Central Library’s Local History Centre, just in time for the British Music Hall Society’s Music Hall and Variety Day on May 16th.

As Dr Billy Rough, co-curator of the exhibition says: “The posters in the Local History Centre are incredibly rare, several of which date from the 1840s onwards. They provide us with a really fascinating insight into the type of entertainment that Dundonians enjoyed in the mid to late 19th century and helps us to explore an overlooked part of our city’s history.”

The exhibition has been co-curated by Ombeline Picat of the University of St Andrews MLitt Museum and Heritage Studies programme and Nicole Entin, a 4th year undergraduate on the School of Art History’s History of Art MA, alongside Dr Billy Rough of the School of Art History and Dr Erin Farley, Library & Information Officer at the Local History Centre.

Dr Erin Farley, Library & Information Officer at Leisure & Culture Dundee says:

"It's been really enjoyable working with the University of St Andrews to bring this part of our collections to a wider audience. The music hall posters are a real window into Dundee's creative history."

Several buildings in the city have a surprising music hall history and it is hoped that the exhibition will prompt some memories from many Dundonians, such as the Old Vic Cinema which operated as the Gaiety music hall in the late 19th and early 20th century and welcomed Marie Lloyd and George Robey to its stage, or the Palace located at the rear of the Queen’s Hotel. The Palace burnt down in the late 1970s, but it had a long history, originally opening as ‘The People’s Palace’ in 1891 and welcoming such stars as Stan Laurel and Harry Lauder.

Dundee also produced its own stars, notably Will Fyffe, who rose to fame in Hollywood during the 1930s and 40s. Although hailing from Dundee, Fyffe is best remembered as the composer of ‘I Belong to Glasgow’.

The associated events are funded by the University of St Andrews Impact and Innovation Fund.

Many thanks to the British Music Hall Society and DC Thomson.

As part of the exhibition a series of events are also scheduled:

The Art of Music Hall: An Illustrated Talk by Alison Young
Thursday, April 25th, at 6pm
Steps Theatre, Dundee Central Library

The Mysteries of the Printing Press - workshop with Pathfoot Press
2-4.30 pm on Thursday 9th May at Dundee Central Library

Dundee’s Music Hall Walking Tour: Dr Billy Rough
10-12 noon on Saturday 11th May. Meet outside Taza Buffet on Camperdown Street.

The Scottish Varieties: Songs and Stories from Scotland's music halls
2-3pm on Thursday 16th May at the Wighton Heritage Centre, Dundee Central Library

To book events visit Dundee Libraries Events - 5 Upcoming Activities and Tickets | Eventbrite

Pictured front are Alison Young and Dr Billy Rough and back are Nicole Entin, Dr Erin Farley, Elsie McGaughrin and Ombeline Picat

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