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U3A Writing: Bolton's Grand Theatre

"Every Friday night we queued for a seat in the gods, so called I expect because we were closer to Heaven...'' Ellen Warner remembers the days when she was a regular theatre goer.

Seeing a 1963 photograph of the Grand Theatre, taken just before its demolition, evoked some wonderful memories of being taken there as a child.

Bolton had two live theatres then, the Grand in Churchgate and the Theatre Royal, its next door neighbour. The Hippodrome was a wonderful repertory company.

All the top artistes of the day appeared at the Grand. Every Friday night we queued for a seat in the gods, so called I expect because we were closer to Heaven. They were also the cheapest seats, and we could look down on the posh folk in the stalls from our lofty position, but not with any sense of envy.

What great acts there were -- Charlie Kunz on piano, Issy Bonn, Monty Rey, Cavan O’Connor, Arthur Tracy, ‘The Street Singer’ Donald Peers -- all wonderful vocalists. We’d sit entranced, munching pasties bought from The Olde Pastieshop just across the way from the theatre.

One act that appeared quite often was a trio, two men and a girl, dressed all in white. They would strike artistic poses like living statues. Can you imagine today’s teens applauding that? How unsophisticated we were.

Troise and His Mandoliers were also frequent visitors. They were billed as coming direct from Argentina, though I suspect, looking back, there were a few local lads among them. But they were marvellous, dressed in Cossack-style silk shirts and black trousers.

Hutch was another favourite with his suave manner. Who could forget ‘Begin the Beguine’? Later, stars of television came. Lovely Joan Regan, Alma Cogan and the Beverly Sisters. They all came to the Grand.

I saw many more shows before it closed its doors, and by this time sat in the posh seats.


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