Music Hall in Islington
Dates: 25 July to 22 October 2019
Opening times: Monday – Saturday: 10am to 5pm, Wednesday and Sunday (and public holidays): Closed
Venue: Islington Museum, 245 St John Street, London EC1V 4NB
From ‘Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay’ to ‘Pack up your troubles’ and beyond, music hall songs and their performers occupy a special place in the hearts of Londoners and, in particular, Islington.
For over 100 years, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the borough’s many music halls and variety theatres entertained generations of Islingtonians. Each venue promised a unique evening’s entertainment and local residents and visitors would drop in to see their favourite ‘turns’.
Famous singing star Marie Lloyd made her debut at the Eagle Tavern, off City Road, and Norman Wisdom launched his professional career at Collins’ Music Hall on Islington Green. Astounding feats of daring and illusion were witnessed at the Finsbury Park Empire, where Harry Houdini escaped from near-impossible stunts and P T Selbit was credited with being the first person to perform the illusion of sawing a woman in half. Audiences laughed at the comedy of Charlie Chaplin, Kate Carney, Laurel and Hardy, and Max Miller and marvelled at the amazing feats performed by fire eaters, trick cyclists and acrobats.
This exhibition celebrates music hall and variety entertainment throughout a time when Islington was London’s undisputed ‘Parish of Pleasure’!
Free events programme
Show: A stroll down the Golden Mile
- Matinee: Thursday 15 August, 2pm
- Evening: Friday 4 October, 6.30pm
Explore the remarkable and rambunctious history of music hall in Islington! Hear from our band of merry miscreants, the ‘Naughty Nineties’, as they sing their way through songs from the borough. Join in with old favourites including ‘Champagne Charlie and ‘My Old Man Said Follow the Van…’ and get a taste of what music hall was all about!
Book Matinee performance at Eventbrite
Book Evening performance at Eventbrite
Walk. The boy up in the gallery: Nelly Power and the music halls of Islington
- Walk 1 – Tuesday 20 August, 6pm
- Walk 2 – Saturday 14 September, 11am
Meet outside Angel Underground Station
Join our guide Lottie, as Victorian music-hall singer and Islington resident Nelly Power, on this free 90-minute ‘theatrical’ walk. Listen to Nelly’s story, and perhaps a song or two, while visiting the locations of the borough’s well-known music halls. Hear how these venues were once made famous by performers including Vesta Tilley, Gracie Fields, Marie Lloyd and, of course, Nelly herself!
The tour finishes at Islington Museum where you can view our music-hall exhibition.
Book at www.islingtonguidedwalks.com
Talk. Freak shows, circus and music hall: Victorian entertainment in Islington
Dr John Wolff
Tuesday 24 September. 6pm
Roll up! Roll up! Roll up! Historian and author Dr John Woolf explores the history of the Victorian freak show, through the stories of the ‘freak performers’ who graced the boards of this popular form of Victorian entertainment.
From the world’s first international celebrity, a dwarf performer endorsed by Queen Victoria, to the original ‘Siamese Twins’ who wowed the medical world - this talk brings centre stage the stars of the Victorian freak show that helped define Queen Victoria’s age, a number of whom appeared in Islington’s music halls and places of entertainment.
Book at Eventbrite
Talk. Chapel on the Green: The rise and fall of Collins’ Music Hall
Tuesday 15 October, 6pm
Mark Aston takes us back to the golden age of music hall to tell the story of one of London’s most loved and famous halls – Collins’ on Islington Green. For nearly 100 years, Collins’ played host to all the music-hall greats, including Marie Lloyd, Harry Champion, George Robey and a young Charlie Chaplin, and also ‘turns’ considered not so great!
Book at Eventbrite