There no time like it...
WGS SHOWTIME © is presented by Royal Greenwich District Scouts
The first record of a ‘variety show’ held in Woolwich District was in 1929. This was held at Wesley Hall Methodist Church in Timbercroft Lane, Plumstead.
Our first Gang Show did not appear until 1954! This was staged at Woolwich Public Hall, Market Street, Woolwich and opened the gates for the many inspired District shows ever since...
The original ‘Woolwich Gang Show’ ran for 8 years from 1954 to 1961 missing 1958 due to a large District Jamboree type event. The District Executive Committee then decided to make the show a bi-annual event and so the show was held in 1959 missed 1960 and was held again in 1961.
Due to the ever-growing commitments of the then Producer, Les Paine, the management committee was unable to propose a 1962 show. The committee wrote in its evaluation report for 1961:
'The torch must now be handed on to others, if they are willing to take it. One thing is certain, all those who have at any time been a member of the Woolwich Gang have happy memories to cherish.'
And so 1961 ended the original series of Woolwich Gang Shows, which began in 1954 and continued in 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1959. After Les Paine had found it impossible to carry on as Producer, it seemed that Scout Shows in Woolwich had died, since no one came forward to take his place.
The years passed, the other members of the Production Team kept in touch with The London Gang Show each year, at Golders Green Hippodrome, in the hope that one-day a new Producer would be found.
At the end of 1963, Alan Burston, a cast member of the original District shows, was exploring the possibilities of reviving the 'Woolwich Gang Show'. But before he was able to crystallise his plans it was discovered that an offer had been received from Jack Garton, the District Commissioner of Greenwich District Scouts, and producer of 'Our Show', (the Greenwich show), to put on a Scout and Guide Show in Woolwich in 1964.
So the old familiar pattern was disposed of. No longer a Gang Show, since Guides as well as Scouts would take part; no longer would Ralph's material be mainly used. Yet, at least there would be a show once again in Woolwich, and this was a step in the right direction.
The Show ran for four nights at Woolwich Public Hall in April 1964, under the name
'SWING-A-LONG', coined by Alan Burston.
1965 saw Alan Burston take over the helm as Producer. These shows became a popular annual Scouting and Guiding event and ran annually for the next 11 years. In 1976 the production of the show was handed over to Cliff Young. After this show the management committee took the decision to give the show 'a rest' due to ever rising running costs.
There was then a long break and the public of Woolwich did not see the popular 'Scout shows' it had been used to for the next 7 years.
Then, in the early 1980s a group of Scouters, most of whom were previously involved with SWING-A-LONG, got together and decided to look into the 'possibility' of reviving Woolwich’s traditional Scout show.
On the 10th of October 1983 they held their first meeting to discuss the possibilities of putting on a show. It was decided it would be small in scale and would follow the Gang Show formula. Auditions were held on Sunday 27th November 1983 at the District Scout Headquarters and after 3 months of rehearsals with Paul Nichols as the new Producer, SHOWTIME '84 hit the stage at Wesley Hall in April of that year.
SHOWTIME continued to be held at Wesley Hall for the 1985 and 1986 productions and gradually interest for the show grew. The success of the show had started to filter through and the Production team took the decision to move the Show to the bigger stage at Eaglesfield School where the next 2 productions (SHOWTIME '87 & '88) where held.
In 1989 the show move back to the home of the Woolwich Gang Show, Woolwich Public Hall.
1994 was a landmark year for SHOWTIME as national Gang Show recognition was sought and granted giving Woolwich the right to reclaim it’s Gang Show title and the right to once again wear the scarlet necker emblazoned simply with GS Woolwich.
In 2003 we celebrated our 50th anniversary when we added a touch of silver to our Gang Show scarf with our much sought after Woolwich Gang Show silver woggle.
We are proud to say that, SHOWTIME has gone from that day to this and is now in its 30th year.
As you can see, The Woolwich show has got a long history of Gang Show tradition. We still have members of that first show in 1954 helping with our current productions.
Who knows what the future holds? Long may it continue!