"A Great British Tradition"
By Barbara Windsor

One of my childhood treats was to be taken, on a Friday night, to Hackney Empire or Finsbury Park Empire to see a Music Hall. I was fortunate to see many of the old great stars and I thought it was wonderful and could often be heard singing those memorable songs. There was always a special atmosphere at the Music Hall; everyone was there to enjoy themselves and have a good old sing-a-long.

The old Music Hall performers led an extraordinary life. An entertainer could appear in four different theatres in a single night - exhausting in more ways than one because theatre etiquette insisted that a star performer bought drinks for everyone on the bill - and they accepted many more in return! Inevitably many artists drank their way to an early grave!

In the early 1900s, with the introduction of Ragtime and Revue and cinema and radio, Music Hall sadly went into decline. However the legacy of Music Hall is all around us. Today the Northern Working Mens' Clubs and their Southern counterparts have an atmosphere similar to the early Halls, and the concert party formula of the typical seaside variety show owes much to the tradition of those bygone years.

My favourite Music Hall star has to be Marie Lloyd: sadly she died before I was born but she was such a legend that her spirit lives on. I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to play her in Sing a Rude Song at the Garrick Theatre in London's West End and it was during this time that I met one of her sisters and Wee Georgie Wood, who said that I did her proud. Now I am regularly asked to appear in Music Hall and it is always a pleasure to do so - there is nothing to compare with that special rapport that the artist enjoys with the audience.

Fortunately companies such as Hiss and Boo are dedicated to keeping alive the spirit of those marvellous artists, songs and performances which have delighted audiences for several generations. The tradition of those good old days is back and, with your continued support, will survive for years to come.

The Hiss and Boo Company expresses their grateful thanks to Barbara Windsor for so kindly contributing her article

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