“Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington…” Was the advice given by Noël Coward to the parents of aspiring thespians. Fortunately many people blithely ignored his advice and in Barnsley there has been a long tradition of the performing arts. The first licence being granted to Messrs. Collier and Huggins in 1798 to hold outdoor performances in the yard of the Old White Bear on Shambles Street.
In 1815 the Georgian Playhouse opened on Wellington Street which also served as a Salvation Army barracks until it became the Theatre Royal in 1883. The building we know as the Theatre Royal opened in 1898 with a 1,200 seat capacity and offered performers unprecedented luxury with gas lamps and hot water in the dressing rooms. Many famous actors appeared there, notably Charlie Chaplin in 1904 when he played Sherlock Holmes but it closed as a theatre in 1961 to become a bingo hall.
Barnsley also had its own music hall on Westgate. The Empire Palace operated from 1874 to 1908, its popularity enhanced by its two bars and by allowing drinking and smoking in the auditorium.
The first cinema was the Globe on New Street which opened in 1908 and then the Empire later Gaumont and Odeon, now Parkway on Eldon Street
There are similarly long traditions in the Penistone Area with the Thurlstone Brass Band having been in continuous existence since 1854. They played at the opening of the Paramount in 1915 and again at its centenary commemoration in 2015. The Paramount is the only cinema in the country to be run by a town or parish council and offers a range of live and recorded performances which make it a valuable asset to the area. It also has a bar. Old Silkstone Band was formed in 1861 and has won many awards over the years whilst in the neighbouring village Cawthorne Brass Band had been in existence since 1873 and their practice nights often provide a musical accompaniment to meetings of the Parish Council.
Penistone is also home to choirs with Millhouse Male Voice choir a good example as well as the Penistone Ladies Choir who are to be congratulated for winning 1st Prize in the Female Voice Choirs class at the Penistone Competitive Music Festival this year.
What constitutes popular arts changes over time and a new innovative venture has recently emerged in Penistone Arts Week which brings a range of comedy, music, film, literature, poetry and craft events to the town. Next year it will run from 16th to 24th March. It offers something for everyone.
However, you can all rest assured that I will take Noël Coward’s advice and not go on the stage myself!
First published in the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living. November 2018