Last Thursday (16th) our friends at VillaGaiety celebrated 120 years of the Gaiety Theatre. Designed by Frank Matcham the theatre has seen so much of our community come together as audience members and performers over it's long history. Here we share a few images from the celebration including our fabulous chair Mrs Marlene Maska MLC having the honour of cutting the cake!
Chair of the Isle of Man Arts Council, Mrs Marlene Maska MLC cutting the cake.
The team at VillaGaiety are currently looking to hear from you about your memories of this beautiful theatre - what this building has meant to you and why. You can find out more information via villagaiety.com/memories.
Special guests on the day included the Lieutenant Governor, Richard Gozney, Mervin Stokes and Chief Minister Howard Quayle.
The day was also commemorated by a poem written and performed by Manx Bard, Zoe Cannell to celebrate its 120th Birthday. The poem was written from the perspective and eye-view of The Lady of the Act-drop. The lines “The prompter’s bell, now I must say adieu, Once more then welcome, one and all of you” are taken from the original poem written by G. A. McCammon and performed on the stage of the Gaiety Theatre by Mr C. J. Morton to mark the opening.
What follows below is that poem:
Manx Bard, Zoe Cannell performing on the Gaiety Theatre stage.
120 Today, 120 Today!
I’m the enchanting, dancing lady. July 16th, nineteen hundred born.
I’ve spent my life at The Gaiety Theatre upon the act-drop I adorn,
Opening performance of ‘The Telephone Girl’ - its musical showcase,
Even then, I knew The Gaiety was a truly special place.
To star, Ada Blanche, I whispered, “they’ll feel magic when they sit
Within this auditorium; first notes struck from the Pit.
Wait in the silhouetted Wings, and as a bird flies from its cage,
You’ll swiftly soar out to your audience; you’re owner of this stage.”
I’m a canvas for the crowds, before the shows, they’d stare at me
Whilst they marvelled, from the outset, at live electricity.
From my elevated stance, I’ve watched countless, wide-eyed folk
Praise the crafting of Frank Matcham; works of art in every stroke.
From the stalls, onlookers gaze up. From the Circle, they peer down,
This Victorian diamond shines – the jewel in the theatrical crown.
Proscenium Arch well-planned; stained-glass ceiling – such precision.
Intricate, delicate carving – marks of Matcham’s vibrant vision.
I’ve lived through two World Wars, facing times both tough and ill
Enduring two global pandemics; hope and joy stayed with me, still.
I’m supportive of productions – whether quick-paced, short or slow
With fluttery, jittery emotions, I witness every high and low.
Sadly, times came in the Sixties when this treasure did not thrive
I was heading to the vaults. This venue could no more survive.
For The Palace and Derby Castle Co., it was a hard sustainment,
People’s tastes were changing; sought new ways of entertainment.
Within hair’s breadth of demolition, the owners struggled to finance,
But Arthur Corkill’s foresight saved it… I continue, now, to dance …
The Isle of Man Government bought The Gaiety. So, from all of us, say thanks
For dedication to the Arts; great gift given to the Manx.
Like many ageing buildings, my home became quite worn and frayed,
Founding features’ alterations, had, of course had to be made.
To whom I must pay tribute – Mervin Stokes and Seamus Shea,
Who are the saviours of this Theatre, fostered what we share today…
Renovation of original; patience over and above
For fundraising and their research; was their long labour of love.
Between my 90th and 100th years, undertook full restoration,
Matching fabrics, colours, patterns; reconstruction, replication…
They made those ghostly beings glide the deft Corsican Trap,
The only one left in the world - what feather in our cap!
Instantly you’ll sense atmosphere, as through the doors you walk,
A thousand tales under this roof; if only walls could talk…
Yes, I’ve seen a host of changes - fashion, costume, genre, theme,
But the staff and FOGS have been a constant, hardworking, focussed team
‘A site that never sleeps’ - Well not when Ken Dodd would appear.
Mervin handed him the keys. “Lock up when you’ve finished here!”
Pantos, lectures, dance groups, opera; magic, comedies and plays,
Oh Gaiety – how we love you! And your future golden days.
The prompter’s bell, now I must say adieu
Once more then, welcome one and all of you
120 today, 120 today!
Gaiety Theatre – Happy Birthday!