Christmas has always been a time for performance and entertainment (Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is!) with shows and pantomimes being a feature of many people’s Christmas festivities.
Entertainment has always been important to the people of Consett, and theatres were established from the very start of the development of the town in the 1840s. At one point there were three theatres to choose from. First was the Theatre Royal in Trafalgar Street, on the site of the present day Steel Club. Then there was the Globe Theatre in Front Street, initially called the New Theatre and now the Freemason’s Arms. This theatre was of particular note, as it was connected with Lloyd Clarance, a pantomime pioneer who lived in Consett. Finally there was the Empire Theatre, also in Front Street and almost opposite the location of the Globe. Only the Empire remains today.
As well as professional entertainments, there is a strong history of amateur performance in Consett, often involving Works employees. Looking back through the CIC magazines the creative spirit was strong, with talented musicians, dancers and actors presenting shows for public entertainment. I remember the pantomimes at the Presbyterian Church (The Press) in Blackhill when I was a child, with some memorable dames who have remained firmly in my consciousness several decades on. Consett, Blackhill and Shotley Bridge Amateur Players drew large crowds to their Christmas shows in 1959 and 1960, and many visiting groups, such as the Norwegian folk dancers highlighted in the January 1961 magazine, entertained Works staff in return for a slap-up tea. It would be great if anyone has images and stories to share of these performances, and the notable amateur players who trod the boards for our entertainment over the years.
The following article in Consett Magazine gives more background to the theatre scene in Consett:
Many thanks to Clarance History and Beyond, the Theatre Trust and Consett Magazine for the information and images. The early image of the Globe Theatre above is in the collections of the Consett and District Heritage Initiative, and is reproduced with many thanks from the Clarance History and Beyond website.