Celebrating the cultural impact of pantomime in Scotland

Submitting Institution

University of Glasgow

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The Pantomime in Scotland touring exhibition attracted audiences of 63,000 people between 2008 and 2010. It was supported by a national programme of community events for schools and the general public, gathering memories from older visitors to form part of an ongoing cultural archive. The discovery and re-recording of film and music from the 1930s-50s led to two concerts attended by 700 people in 2010, and the creation of a DVD, which has sold 500 copies since its production in 2009. Publicity surrounding the exhibition and related events reached an estimated circulation of 467,330 across print media and audiences of over 1 million across Scottish radio and television.

Underpinning research

Building on research already undertaken by Adrienne Scullion (from 1996 lecturer, senior lecturer, then Chair in Drama at the University of Glasgow [UoG]) and Paul Maloney (PDRA at UoG, 2007-11) into Scottish popular theatre, touring theatre, children's theatre and theatre in rural areas, Pantomime in Scotland was an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project (2007-10) based in UoG's School of Culture and Creative Arts. The aim of this unique project was to explore, document and celebrate one of Scotland's great popular art forms. The research project demonstrated that pantomime in Scotland is culturally and economically significant — contributing 14% of total revenue in Scottish theatre in 2008-9 — and a distinctive part of cultural life and expression, highly valued by audiences and professionals alike.

Scullion and Maloney's previous research focused on the particular significance of popular forms of theatre in Scotland. With reference to distinctive performance traditions and industrial arrangements and infrastructure, the researchers had noted the seemingly privileged place of pantomime within Scotland's wider culture of professional and non-professional theatre-making, in both urban and rural contexts.

The new research project investigated pantomime in Scotland at a critical juncture: recording the memories of the generation who experienced the inter-war heyday of Scottish pantomime; and, analysing this popular theatre phenomenon while it continued as a functioning commercial form. Led by Scullion, the project investigated both the history and contemporary manifestations of professional (subsidised and commercial) pantomime as well as community and non-professional pantomime in both urban and rural areas. With reference to key critical tropes of popular culture and theatre, gender, local/regional appeal, diaspora and national profile, the project examined pantomime images, representations and identities; memories, recollections and histories; economics, industry and infrastructure.

A major discovery for the project was a previously unknown private collection of musical scores and band parts written for pantomimes in Glasgow between the 1920s and 1940s. In collaboration with Scottish Opera, Linn Records, Glasgow Life, freelance musicians, musical directors and producers these scores were reset and the music was realised, recorded and performed for new audiences.

Datasets — oral history

The team created qualitative and quantitative datasets, with the former including a national oral history programme. Involving audience members and practitioners, oral history research captured the collective experience of pantomime in Scotland across all its aspects, from memories of the large-scale professional spectaculars of the inter-war years to those of school and community productions today. The oral history project and programme of interviews captured memories from all age groups, with a particular focus on the generation that grew up in the 1920s and 1930s. Their recollections of the experience of popular theatre-making and theatre-going in the inter-war period constitute a unique resource for future theatre historians and popular culture researchers.

Datasets — economic analysis

A second strand of data capture was a national pantomime census and economic impact study capturing information about both commercial and non-professional pantomimes across Scotland in the pantomime season of 2008-9. Working with the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde — who provided the economic modelling package — the UoG researchers undertook a national survey of all professional and amateur pantomime activity in 2008-9. The researchers established the economic significance of pantomime, showing that 9% of the population in Scotland attended a professional pantomime in 2008-9 and 31% saw or were involved in making a non-professional pantomime. The 21 professional pantomimes that formed the survey generated total receipts of £5.7 million, supported 291 jobs (132 directly, 291 indirectly), and generated a total of £3.46 million wages in Scotland. Pantomime represents 14% of total theatre revenue in Scotland. These new datasets constitute major new resources of wider relevance to researchers of popular culture, social history, community arts and to industry practitioners and policy-makers: providing a new data set and reference point for Fraser of Allander's ongoing analysis of the Scottish economy and its industries; and, serving as a tool for theatre producers — eg, Ambassador Theatre Group at the King's Theatre Glasgow used the information as part of its successful Heritage Lottery Fund application in 2011.

References to the research

Publications — all available from the HEI:

Paul Maloney, `Twentieth-century popular theatre', Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Drama, ed. Ian Brown (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), pp. 60-72. ISBN9780748641079.


Paul Maloney, `Wha's like us?: ethnic representation in music hall and popular theatre and the remaking of urban Scottish society', From Tartan to Tartanry: Scottish Culture, History and Myth, ed. Ian Brown (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), pp.129-50. ISBN9780748638772.


Paul Maloney, `Flying down the Saltmarket: the Irish on the Glasgow music hall stage', Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film 36.1 (2009), pp. 11-36. Peer-reviewed. ISSN1748-3727.


Adrienne Scullion, `Theatre work in Scotland', Working Life of the Scots: Craft and Service, eds Mark Mulhern, John Beech and Elaine Thompson, volume 7 (of 14) in the series Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology (Edinburgh: Tuckwell Press / National Museums of Scotland / European Ethnological Research Centre, 2008), pp. 369-84. ISBN9781904607854.

Adrienne Scullion, The Same, But Different: Rural Arts Touring in Scotland (Stroud: Comedia, 2004). ISBN1873667876.

Paul Maloney, Scotland and the Music Hall, 1850-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003). ISBN9780719061462.



AHRC — Research Grant (Pantomime in Scotland, 2007; value £532,450)

National Library of Scotland — Grants (Pantomime in Scotland, 2009, 2010; value £3,600)

Details of the impact

Pantomime has a long history in Scottish communities, with nearly a third of all people in Scotland in 2008-9 either attending a pantomime or taking part in an amateur or professional production. Pantomime is notable for its family and community spirit, with local in-jokes and scripts, inclusive spirit, and enduring popularity throughout the rise of digital and global entertainments. Scullion and Maloney's research project Pantomime in Scotland formed the basis of a nationally touring exhibition which ran over the winters of 2008-9 and 2009-10. Curated by Scullion, the exhibition was accompanied by a series of community events for schoolchildren, families, elderly people and the general public. This reflected the project's central aim of promoting a wider public appreciation of pantomime's contribution to Scottish culture. In addition to the interactive multimedia touring exhibition, materials collected over the course of the research, including the newly discovered archive of pantomime musical scores from the 1920s-40s, were produced on DVD with a companion booklet. The cultural archive was extended and developed with the recollections of members of the public gathered from those attending the exhibition or related events. The exhibition and related work attracted Scotland-wide media interest and tapped into the community spirit at the heart of pantomime, creating and interpreting cultural capital and enriching the lives of individuals and groups.

National touring exhibition

The Pantomime in Scotland exhibition covered pantomime's Victorian origins up to the present day, with memorabilia, audio recordings from the research survey of folk memories of particular shows, and archive film footage from the National Library of Scotland and Scottish Screen of shows from the 1930s-50s. The exhibition toured major theatres across Scotland in pantomime seasons 2008-9 and 2009-10, and was attended by over 63,000 members of the public at venues in the east and north of Scotland in 2008-9 (the King's Theatre Edinburgh, Perth Theatre, Byre Theatre St Andrews, His Majesty's Theatre Aberdeen and Eden Court Theatre Inverness) and at venues in the west of Scotland in 2009-10 (Motherwell Theatre, King's Theatre Glasgow and the MacRobert Centre Stirling). It generated significant national media coverage, reaching an estimated print circulation of 467,330 and well over 1 million listeners/viewers on radio and television. The exhibition was flagged as a cultural `Highlight of the week' by The Herald (17 November 2009) and it also featured in The Scotsman (3 December 2008), The Press and Journal (15 January 2009), The Sunday Post, The Perthshire Advertiser (3 December 2009) and in The Big Issue and Scottish Memories magazine, in addition to radio shows on BBC Radio Scotland — the news programme Good Morning Scotland and magazine programme MacAulay and Co — and BBC Radio Five Live and Real Radio. It featured on the BBC Scotland's news bulletins, including its main programme Reporting Scotland (26 November 2008) and on STV News (4 December 2009 and on 24 June 2010) and on the STV magazine programme The Hour (11 December 2010).

The exhibition — at King's Theatre, Glasgow, right — provided an opportunity for the public to learn about the history and roots of contemporary pantomime, thereby adding value to their experience and understanding.

Outreach events for schools and community groups

A programme of free education and outreach events accompanied the exhibition tour, including: talks for the general public — eg, `Parliamo Panto', a roundtable discussion with pantomime performers at the King's Theatre, Glasgow; drama and art workshops for schools and for families — eg, `Pantomime puppets' at the MacRobert Arts Centre in Stirling and the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness; and, film screenings at the National Library of Scotland and the Byre Theatre in St Andrews for the general public and community groups. Reminiscence events — eg, at the King's Theatre Edinburgh and His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen — encouraged visitors to share their memories and experiences of participating in or attending pantomime, enabling the creation of the memories archive. These events attracted total audiences of around 800.

Pantomime puppets workshops Eden Court Theatre Inverness Pantomime puppets workshops Eden Court Theatre Inverness Pantomime puppets workshops Eden Court Theatre Inverness
Pantomime puppets workshops Eden Court Theatre Inverness

Creating an archive of Scottish pantomime on film

In 2009, the research team (in collaboration with Scottish Opera and Glasgow Life) produced a DVD and booklet of archived silent films from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s with a soundtrack featuring the newly discovered contemporary pantomime music. Pantomime in Scotland: a celebration of Scottish pantomime on film was produced by UoG/National Library of Scotland-Scottish Screen Archive, and was narrated by pantomime star Stanley Baxter. The DVD also includes a rare sound film featuring Scottish variety performer Tommy Lorne and an equally rare film advertisement for a winter variety show in Glasgow, promoted as a seasonal alternative to pantomime. The DVD has sold 500 copies since its release in 2009.

Further events and talks focused on the archive film and were delivered at: the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) — two events including one as part of its `Silver Screen' programme targeting older audiences, the MacRobert Arts Centre in Stirling, Perth Concert Hall, His Majesty's Theatre Aberdeen and Motherwell Civic Theatre attracted audiences of 450 people. These events were all devised by the UoG researchers and delivered in partnership with the venues as part of their winter schedules. These public events were generally introduced by Scullion, with presentations by Maloney and the then Education Officer for the Scottish Screen Archive) on the history of Scottish pantomime and technical aspects of the films. At the GFT an events musician Karen MacIver played live improvised piano scores.

In 2010 Glasgow Life, Glasgow UNESCO City of Music and the National Library of Scotland responded positively to approaches from the UoG researchers to present two concert screenings of music created for the DVD with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Hosted by pantomime star Elaine C Smith, 700 people attended the events, the audience demographic significantly older than the families and schools targeted by the exhibition's main impact activities, thus extending the public benefit of the project.

Pantomime on film Woodside Hall Glasgow Pantomime on film Woodside Hall Glasgow Pantomime on film Woodside Hall Glasgow
Pantomime on film Woodside Hall Glasgow

Sources to corroborate the impact

Materials generated by the UoG project team — available from the HEI:

— Promotional materials generated by the UoG team to support and promote the project — detailing the public-facing activities by year and by event.

— Feedback and evaluations of Pantomime in Scotland events.

Testimonial confirming value of project as enhancing holdings of Scottish Screen Archive by way of identification of content and its digitisation and promotion in range of public-facing contexts — ie, creating and interpretation of cultural capital — available from the HEI:

— Testimonial from Manager, Scottish Screen Archive.

Selection of testimonials from project partners, confirming that the exhibition and public- facing events added value to audiences' experiences and drew in more audiences to venues/events — ie, enriching and expanding lives — available from the HEI:

— Testimonial from Marketing Manager, Ambassador Theatre Group (King's Theatre and Theatre Royal, Glasgow)

— Testimonial from Divisional Head of Marketing, Ambassador Theatre Group (North)

— Testimonial Director of Policy and Research, Glasgow Life

— Testimonial from Commercial Director, Festival City Theatres Trust (Edinburgh)

Selection of press coverage evidencing raised profile and popularity of pantomime events:

New exhibit celebrates pantomime (BBC News, 26 November 2008); Pantomime in Scotland (The List, 19 November 2009); New panto exhibition is on...oh yes it is! (Perthshire Advertiser, 3 December 2009); Scotland's other national theatre (Press and Journal, 15 January 2009); Early Scottish panto stars are brought to life (oh yes they are) (The Scotsman, 3 December 2008); Oh yes it is ... new tribute to Scots panto culture (The Herald, 17 November 2009; STV News (4 December 2009).