Remembering Marie Lloyd

Friday 7th October, 2022 marks 100 years since the death of Marie Lloyd, one of the most famous and popular music hall stars of the late 19th and early 20th century and “Queen of Comediennes”.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

Early years

Born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood on the 12th February 1870, Marie was the eldest of nine children. All of the Wood children would take their turn on the stage, performing together as early as 1879 as a minstrel act called the ‘Fairy Bell troupe’, with a number of her siblings going on to have successful careers in their own right.

In 1885 Lloyd made her first professional solo performance, performing as ‘Bella Delmere’ at the Royal Eagle Music Hall on 9th May, aged just 15. However, this name was quickly changed and by June of that year she was performing as ‘Marie Lloyd’. Despite not having the best of singing voices, Marie oozed charm and was a natural comedian, making her an instant hit. Her popularity continued to grow, and she continued to get bookings at halls across London, performing songs such as “The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery”, “She Has a Sailor for a Lover” and “Wink the Other Eye”. By 1891 Lloyd was a household name, pulling in large crowds at halls across Britain, and starring in the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane’s Christmas pantomimes alongisde stars such as Dan Leno. As her star continued to rise, her agent reported that Lloyd was fully booked up for years at the best houses across the UK, and that her salary ran from £250-£300 a week, sometimes as much as £700 a week at the height of her career. 

Reputation, charity, and controversy

Part of Lloyd’s appeal was that she did not appear on stage to be bound by the moral constraints of the time – her songs were cheeky and risqué, and she would play with the audience. However, this cheekiness did give her somewhat of a reputation. In 1895, Lloyd added the song ‘What’s that for, eh?’ to her act. The song tells the tale of a schoolchild who, when she asks her parents awkward questions, gets unsatisfactory answers. So she goes to her friend ‘Johnny Jones’ for help, and he teaches her the facts of life. And while the lyrics were not indecent, when Marie performed the song she was suggestive, winking to the audience and gesturing.

“What’s that for, eh? Tell me Ma
If you don’t tell me I’ll ask Pa”
But Ma said, “Oh its no thing shut your row”
Well, I’ve asked Johnny Jones, see
So I know now.”

The song and it’s performance was so controversial that it was cited as evidence in a hearing of 1896, when the Oxford Music Hall was threatened with having its licence withheld.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

In October 1906 Lloyd was elected the first president of the Music Hall Ladies Guild. The organisation helped the wives of artists who were unable to perform and make money, providing food and resources to them and their families. They also supported young people, helping boys find work as messengers or call-boys. Some members of the Guild would use it as an opportunity to network and improve their social standing, however Lloyd did not have time for this pretentious self-promotion. She was well-known for her incredibly generosity and charitable giving, and preferred to have fun and entertain at Guild events.

Lloyd also petitioned for Music Hall artistes to have more rights and fair contracts. She used her clout as a well-known and celebrated artist to stand up for the community, and in 1899 she took a manager to court over a dispute with her contract, and won. This accomplishment was recognised by her peers, who presented her with gifts to mark her generosity in defending artist’s rights. She wrote in The Era “I am, and always have been ready and willing to help my brother and sister artists by every means in my power in anything that is for their good”. She was integral in developing the National Alliance, a group that wrote a charter that was sent out to theatre managers outlining the terms by which performers wished to work. The refusal by some to sign this charter led to a number of theatres being “blacklisted” by artists, and over two thousand performers taking to the streets to protest contract conditions.

1912 saw the first ever Royal Command Performance (later known as the Royal Variety Show) at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, with acts performing on stage in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. To some amazement, Marie Lloyd was left off of the bill. According to Graeme Cruickshank in the Spring 2012 volume of The Call Boy, this was possibly at the direction of Alfred Butt, Oswald Stoll and George Ashton (producers of the show) in their attempt to make the show “family friendly”. Some thought it may also have been due to her association with the music hall strike, or that it was simply a case of balancing the bill and not oversaturating it with female comedic performers. In public, Lloyd took the slight professionally and with dignity, but there is evidence that she was furious – Alfred Butt even wrote to the palace warning that Marie Lloyd was to write to the King regarding her omission (although there is no evidence of her ever doing this). Possibly telling of her feelings on the matter, on the night of the performance Lloyd put on her own show at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly, and left for Paris immediately after that performance. Albert Chevalier (who was also left off of the billing) said of it “The whole arrangement as it stands is really extraordinary. Who is there more representative of the variety profession? Miss Lloyd is a great genius, she is an artist from the crown of her head to the sole of her foot…”.

Marie continued to perform throughout World War I, performing new songs, including some with a military theme. She also frequently visited hospitals to visit wounded servicemen, and toured munition factories to boost morale.

“Now, I do feel so proud of you, I do honour bright
I’m going to give you an extra cuddle tonight
I didn’t like yer much before yer join’d the army, John
But I do like yer, cocky, now you’ve got yer Khaki on.”

Despite all her charitable efforts throughout her career and during the war, Marie was never officially recognised in the way her colleagues, such as George Robey CBE, were. This had an impact on her bitterness in later life, which was only exacerbated when she was overlooked again for the 1919 Command Performance.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

Off stage life

Despite her successes, Lloyd had a troubled personal life. She was married three times, and experienced domestic abuse during two of them. She married Percy Charles Courtenay in 1887, but the marriage was unhappy, and filled with violence, drunkeness and jealousy. The couple divorced in 1894, after Courtenay discovered that Lloyd had started an affair with fellow performer Alec Hurley. Hurley and Lloyd married in 1906, however the pair were effectively seperated by 1910 after they had consistent marital probems. Lloyd began an open and passionate affair with Bernard Dillon, a jockey. Hurley initiated divorce proceedings in 1911. Sadly the relationship between Lloyd and Dillon was not a happy one, marred by Dillon’s jealousy, drunkeness, and gambling addiction. Despite this they married in 1914. He was violent and abusive throught the rest of Lloyd’s life.

Sadly, Lloyd was also a heavy drinker, particularly in later life, perhaps a consequence of her troubled personal life. She would often have violent fights with Dillon, with Lloyd sometimes needing to apply make up to cover the bruises. As she moved in to her 50s she fell in to a depression, and would no longer hide her feelings of bitterness and anger. In July of 1920 she took Dillon to court over his violence, making their private life very much a topic of public record. This resulted in him being ordered by the court to “keep the peace” for the next twelve months, a sentence that was apparently requested by Lloyd.

In the later years of her life, Lloyd was in financial trouble (in part due to Dillon’s gambling debts) and needed to work in order to get by. Her drinking and ill health made her less and less reliable, sometimes only performing for a fraction of the time that she was scheduled. She began to forget her lines and would sometimes stumble on the stage, so much so that stagehands would be asked to be on call to help her if she became unsteady. In order to save money, in early 1922 she moved in with her sister Daisy, and by the time of her death Lloyd was virtually penniless.

Death

Lloyd worked right up until days before her death, having been on tour for much of 1922 despite being unwell. Her last performance at the Edmonton Empire was the Tuesday before her death. Prior to the performance, she complained to Sidney Bernstein (the owner of the theatre) of a stomach ache and was shivering. Bernstein tried to persuade her to go home, but to no avail. Her doctor was called and he gave her some medication, before staying to watch her performance from the side of the stage. During the performance Lloyd staggered and fell, making the audience laugh thinking it was part of her act. After the show Lloyd collapsed and was taken home in a taxi, unconscious. She did not regain consciousness and died at her residence in Golder’s Green, 7th October 1922 at the age of 52.

Funeral and legacy

Lloyd’s funeral was held at Hampstead Cemetery on 12 October, 1922. More than 50,000 people turned out on the streets of Hampstead to watch her funeral cortege. It was estimated that 120,000 people visited her grave in the following weeks, with queues stretching out from the gates of Hampstead Cemetary. Many newspapers and fellow performers paid tribute to Lloyd in the days after her death. T.S. Eliot wrote a moving tribute to her in The Criterion of January 1923. He said of Lloyd…

“Marie Lloyd was the greatest music hall artist in England: she was also the most popular… It is evidence of the extent to which she represented and expressed that part of the english nation which has perhaps the greatest vitality and interest… Whereas other comedians amuse their audiences as much and sometimes more than Marie Lloyd, no other comedian succeded so well in giving expression to the life of that audience, in raising it to kind of art.” 

Many of the songs sung by Lloyd are still known today, including “My Old Man Said Follow the Van”, “A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good”, and “Don’t Dilly Dally On The Way”. A memorial tablet to Lloyd was installed in the vestibule at Tivoli cinema (what was the Tivoli Theatre) in the Strand in 1944, on the 21st anniversary of her death. Lloyd was also commemorated in 1977 with a blue plaque at her previous residence, 55 Graham Road in Dalston. In media, a stage show and BBC drama have been created depicting the life of Marie Lloyd.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

Sources

Note

As with many acts at the time, Lloyd performed some songs that contained offensive and racist terminology, and we can not with good conscience speak of her success and popularity without mention of this. Music Hall song and performance was in many ways a reflection of social attitudes at the time, and this does not exclude those parts of white, British history that are offensive and repellent. We can see this in our collection of music hall songsheets, with some containing racist slurs and offensive depictions, imperialistic attitude, and that make light of marital violence, misogyny, and the class divide. Music Hall rose in a time of expansion of the British Empire and popular imperialism. Songs performed by both male and female artists played with notions of power, or leaned on stereotypes to connect with the audience.

Music in the Archives: A whistle-stop tour through our collections (part one)

June is finally here! The sun is out (well, mostly), lockdown restrictions are starting to lift a bit here in the UK and – most importantly – it’s time for one of our favourite University events of the year: Summer Music Week. Kent’s brilliant Music department annually hosts a series of concerts to celebrate the end of the academic year, and in these strangest of times we need music more than ever.

We’ve collaborated with Kent’s music programme many times before and our links are incredibly strong – there are so many forms of music in our collections! So to celebrate this year’s concerts, we thought we’d put together a brief chronology of some of the musical highlights in our stores…

Pre-1700s collection: Psalms, prayers and printed hymns

Our Pre-1700s collection is a real treasure trove of items, ranging from some of the most important printed books in the literary canon (looking at you, Johnson’s First Folio) to travel narratives, histories and much more. A big part of the Pre-1700s collection is comprised of religious texts and sermons; fantastic for anyone interested in the many debates around the role of the Church and the development of Protestantism in England.

Photograph of hymn music in a 16th century bible.

Photograph of hymn music in a 16th century bible (C 549 BIB, Pre-1700s collection)

What’s particularly great about our Pre-1700s texts though is the insight they give into how everyday people practiced religion and interacted with the Bible, particularly after it was translated into English. Our 1580s Bible is such a great example of this; not only does it have marginalia dating from 200 years after its publication, but if you look in the back of the book there are musical scores to hymns sung in Church at the time!

John Crow’s Ballad and Song collection: oral history in print

Much of our Pre-1700s collection is comprised of books collected by the academic John Crow (read more about him here). Crow was a scholar particularly interested in a) the Renaissance world, b) Shakespeare’s legacy and c) ballad and song books, which for the purposes of this blog we’re going to refer to as an early form of sea-shanty TikTok.

A colourful row of books from the John Crow Ballad and Song collection.

A colourful row of books from the John Crow Ballad and Song collection

The ballad and song books contain many publications of the Percy Society (active 1840 – 1852), which published and reprinted rare poems and songs, and the Ballad Society (founded 1868) which had similar aims but focused on publishing folklore. Ballads were a big part of English popular storytelling for generations; they were often printed on cheap paper, sold on street corners and passed around in pubs – but few of them survive due to their ephemeral nature. The Percy Society and Ballad Society aimed to change this by printing them in more formal book editions (made of better quality materials so likely to survive longer). The ballad and song books we look after are a fantastic resource for anyone interested in folk music, exploring how histories were passed around between oral and written formats, and much more.

Theatre collections part one: the Pettingell playscripts

Spoiler alert: a great deal of the music we hold can be found in our extensive theatre collections – so much so that they appear three different times in this blog alone, and that’s only because we’d run out of space otherwise! It’s pretty much impossible to separate music from theatre, particularly during live performance’s rise to fame during the nineteenth century – orchestras could be found in nearly every venue. Music was used to create atmosphere, to heighten emotion, to change scenes and – of course – during songs and dances on stage. Amongst critics there were continual questions asked about music’s role in the theatres, it being seen by some to cheapen ‘proper’ drama.

Title page for a ballet version of Macbeth, complete with am illustration of Macbeth holding two daggers. from the Pettingell collection.

Title page for a ballet version of Macbeth from the Pettingell collection (PETT S.124)

Photograph of the play text for Boucicault's play 'The Octoroon', from the Pettingell collection. The printed text is crossed out and handwritten revisions are included on the next page.

Photograph of the play text for Boucicault’s play ‘The Octoroon’, from the Pettingell collection (PETT PAR 21)

One of the main gems of our theatre collections is without a doubt the Pettingell collection, which comprises of over 4000 plays collected by comedian Arthur Williams and later bought by actor Frank Pettingell. Williams attended many of the plays he collected and as a result a great number of the scripts, which you could generally buy cheaply as a kind of souvenir, are uniquely annotated by their owner with information such as cast lists and additional pages added in. The Pettingell collection also contains more than 300 pantomime libretti, which we’ll talk about more below. It’s a great collection if you’re new to the world of Victorian theatre as you can really get a sense of the range of plays produced during this era – from histories to popular folk stories to adaptations of famous literary works, not to mention unique genres such as melodrama.

Music hall: early celebrities, the world before Spotify and popular music in action

Selection of tickets from music hall events pasted on to a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

Selection of tickets from music hall events pasted on to a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

My colleague Clair has written brilliantly before about music hall, but it’s pretty difficult to talk all things musical in the collections without mentioning some of our wonderful material that belonged to the British Music Hall Society’s resident archivist and historian Max Tyler. For the uninitiated, music hall (not musical(s) – pronunciation is key here) was a form of entertainment especially popular in the late Victorian/early Edwardian era in Britain – around 1890 – 1910. It was where many forms of Victorian popular culture developed, and is largely responsible for the variety shows of the mid-late 20th century. Music hall’s popularity was due in part to the industrial revolution – people moved to newly urban centres looking for work, which in turn created a demand for popular entertainment venues.

Selection of photographs of music hall stars pasted onto a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

Selection of photographs of music hall stars pasted onto a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

Whilst the specifics of each music hall performance would vary, a few things would look similar at each venue: every event would have a chairman, to oversee and host the evening, and often a pianist to accompany performers. Admission was generally cheap (sometimes free, if you bought drinks) and caused licensers endless headaches about what constituted a proper venue! All kinds of performance would occur during a music hall night, from songs and ‘specialty’ acts such as dance, clowns and other physical entertainers, to condensed versions of plays (just don’t tell Boucicault about that…; see next post). Sometimes a single act would cross all different types of performance.

Cover for sheet music to 'All Thro' Sticking to a Soldier' sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

Cover for sheet music to ‘All Thro’ Sticking to a Soldier’ sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

Musical score for 'All Thro' Sticking to a Soldier' sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

Musical score for ‘All Thro’ Sticking to a Soldier’ sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

As our extensive collection of music in the Max Tyler Archive demonstrates, it was possible to purchase illustrated song sheets of many popular music hall hits for home performance – albeit these tended to be the sanitised versions, for more genteel audiences, rather than the more popular bawdy songs! According to theatre historian Jacky Bratton, the abundance of song sheets that survive today gives us a slightly skewed view of what was actually performed in music halls, as it just wasn’t possible to record specialty acts or perhaps even adapted plays in the same manner.

Work on the amazing Max Tyler Music Hall collection is still ongoing, but you can browse our listings of Max’s incredible research files on our archive catalogue here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series about music in Special Collections & Archives; do visit our website for more information on the collections and if you have any queries please drop us a line (specialcollections@kent.ac.uk).

Sources:

John Crow Ballad and Song collection: the University of Oxford have an amazing resource via the Bodelian Library – Broadside Ballads online.

Pettingell playscripts:

Fuhrmann, C. Between Opera and Musical: Theatre Music in Early Nineteenth-Century London. In Gordon, R. and Jubin, O. (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199988747.013.2

Pisani, M. (2004). Music for the theatre: Style and function in incidental music. In K. Powell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 70-92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL052179157X.005

Music hall:

Bratton, J. (2004). The music hall. In K. Powell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 164-182). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL052179157X.010

Don’t Dilly Dally on the Research

You may remember reading about the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection in our #musichallvareityday blog post. Today we’re going to delve a little deeper in to one part of this rich and impressive collection – the research files!

It goes without saying that Max was a great fan of music hall, and he was known by many for his specialist knowledge of the subject. But Max was also a diligent organiser and an avid researcher of music hall, and this is reflected in the research files within this collection.

Examples of the research files in Max’s collection.

Whilst working as the British Music Hall Society’s historian and archivist he would receive many queries from people all over the world. Max would always go the extra mile when responding to these queries, often carrying out a substantial amount of research on the enquirer’s behalf. He seemed to have a knack for knowing where to look for the most elusive of details, and his knowledge of obscure music hall songs was second to none. The outcomes of this research, alongside his own research for the various articles, publications and presentations he produced, was compiled into these files.

There are 183 files in the collection, on topics from individual performers, composers and historic events, through to animals, horse racing and trains. The majority of the contents is photocopied sheet music and songsheets, but they also contain biographies, published articles and newspaper cuttings, copies of photographs, print outs from the internet, and email correspondence, alongside some original examples of ephemera, songsheets and postcards.

So, what do we have here…?

Within the collection there are:

  • 115 files on specific performers, covering such well-known artists as Vesta Tilley, Gus Elen, Marie Lloyd and Dan Leno. Male performers make up almost 65% of this sub-series of files, whilst only 32% focus on female performers. There are also 3 files about double-acts and one about a performance group (The Co-Optimists).
  • 12 files on specific subjects, including racing, the Salvation Army, football, railways, the genealogy of music hall, and ballooning!
  • 5 files about specific theatres, which includes the Musical Comedy and Gaiety Theatre (London), the Palace and Middlesex music halls, The Windmill (London), and two about the Players Theatre (London).
  • 4 files about historic events; the Suffragette movement, the Jameson Raid, the Anglo-Zulu war, and the Princess Alice Paddle Steamer Disaster
  • 3 files about a specific show or production, two about the stage show ‘Trilby’, and one about the BBC radio show ‘Palace of Varieties’.
  • And 1 file about a historic figure (it’s Queen Victoria)

There are also 43 files on less specific topics, such as ‘Songwriters’ and ‘Artistes’, collations of print outs and requests from research institutions like the Bodleian Library, or alphabetised folders containing collated resources and songs.

The most frequent words to appear in the catalogue records of the research files in the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection.

Some highlights…

Now, files full of photocopies of published songsheets may not sound too exciting, however there are some real gems amongst the collection…

A songsheet for the song ‘Lambeth Walk’ which includes dance moves on the back

MWT/RES/166 – Lambeth Walk Songsheet, from ‘Me and My Girl’, with Lupino Lane, George Graves and Teddie St Denis, music by Noel Gay.

 

Photograph of the performer Chris Beeching looking very dapper in character as Champagne Charlie, for a production of a show performed at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2013.

MWT/RES/067 – Black and white photograph of Christopher Beeching dressed as Champagne Charlie for a 2013 production directed by Glyn Idris Jones. Photograph credited to Dan Savident.

Sheet music for a song about our local seaside town Margate, called ‘Merry Margate’.Check out an audio rendition here, performed by our very own Dan Harding from the Kent music department!

MWT/RES/167 – Photocopy of sheet music and lyrics for ‘Merry Margate’, written and composed by Lloyd G. Williams.

A souvenir folio from the first production of ‘Trilby’ on the stage in London, 30th Ocotber, 1895. Includes a cast list and photographic plates of the cast members in costume.

MWT/RES/008 – Small folio souvenier programme of Paul M. Potter’s ‘Trilby’, performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on 30th October, 1895

That’s not to say all of the material within this collection is joyous and full of whimsy. The music hall tradition reflected societal norms of the day, and whilst many songs were intended to be satirical or comical, they did sometimes include racial stereotyping, blackface, stories of domestic abuse and/or offensive and outdated language. Whilst this can be upsetting and shocking to see, and to process and catalogue, it is important that we accurately record these terms and depictions in the interest of historical accuracy. Removing this material, censoring, or replacing these terms with modern equivalents, would risk falsifying the historical record and would in itself be problematic.

This collection has the potential to support some very interesting research projects. There is material here that could be used to research topics such as the representation of People of Colour in theatre, male and female impersonation around the turn of the century, or perhaps how humour was used to tell stories of poverty and depravation.

We’ve recently completed the cataloguing of the files, all of which you can now review on our online catalogue. If you’re interested in seeing anything in the files, just get in touch with us at specialcollections@kent.ac.uk!

A little of what you fancy..!

To celebrate the inaugural #musichallvarietyday on Saturday 16th May, 2020, we thought we’d tell you a bit about one of our magnificent theatre collections, the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection!

In June 2018 Special Collections & Archives were lucky enough to receive the personal music hall memorabilia collection of Max Tyler.

Who was Max Tyler?

Max was the historian and archivist of the British Music Hall Society. A retired bank manager, Max looked after the society’s theatrical memorabilia and was an expert in the field, particularly in the subject of seaside entertainment and obscure music hall tunes!

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Photographs of Max Tyler. Left and right images courtesy of Alison Young, middle image from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection.

Max was often invited to speak at events all across the UK and frequently wrote articles for publications such as The Call Boy and The Stage, and was the editor of the journal Music Hall Studies. According to the Music Hall Studies website, it was Max’s belief that “if there were no other source relating to British social history for a long period around the turn of the nineteenth century, a study of music hall song would provide everything researchers were seeking”.

Max had been in talks with us for many years about his personal collection of music hall memorabilia and research, with him ultimately bequeathing it to the University. Sadly, Max passed away on 5th January 2018 after being in poor health for some time. In his obituary in The Call Boy, Roy Hudd said of Max, “Max Tyler, an old fashioned gentleman and an old fashioned gentle man”.

After his death we worked closely with the British Music Hall Society to transfer the collection to our archive.

Music Hall? What’s that!?

Music hall was an incredibly popular form of entertainment from the mid-19th through to the early 20th century. Originating in bars and public houses, it was a heady mixture of popular songs, comedy and variety entertainment.

Oxford Music Hall, 1875

From around 1850 specialist music halls began springing up all across the country as the genre became more and more popular. The patrons would smoke, eat and drink whilst enjoying the humorous (and often cheeky) performances from that night’s entertainers. These entertainers were the celebrities of the day, with the most successful ones, such as Marie Lloyd, performing both nationally and internationally. The songs they sang were often a comment on the working class social issues of the time, such as money troubles, overcrowded living, unfaithful or nagging spouses, and sometimes even true love!

As the 20th century progressed and World War loomed, music hall popularity dwindled. Then came radio, cinema, and later, television, firmly putting an end to its ubiquitous popularity.

The collection

The Max Tyler Music Hall Collection is chock-full of music hall material, spanning from the late 19th century through to the early 21st century. It includes original and copies of Music Hall song sheets, sheet music and scripts for musical comedies, music hall programmes, playbills, 20th century music hall and vaudeville magazines and periodicals, music hall audio recordings on cassette, CD, shellac discs, and reel-to-reel tapes, published books on music hall, and music hall performers, Max’s research notes, and even Max’s very own stage blazer and hat!

Max’s striped blazer and straw boater hat, from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection.

We couldn’t possibly fit information about everything in the collection in to one blog post, so for today’s post we will focus on a couple of the larger elements of the collection.

Songsheets

There are at least 1500 songsheets in the Max Tyler collection. With elaborately illustrated covers, and whimsical titles such as “I wasn’t so drunk as all that” and “La-Didily-Idily-Umti-Umti-Ay!” these songsheets are an incredible glimpse in to the working classes of the day (albeit a satirised, playful one!) Performers such as T.E. Dunville, Vesta Tilley, Marie Lloyd and Gus Elen, amongst many others, are represented, as well as prolific composers such as Joseph Tabrar, Arthur Lloyd and George Le Brunn.

Just a few of the 1500+ songsheets in the collection.

Programmes

The collection boasts beautifully illustrated late 19th and early 20th century programmes from variety theatres of the day, through to bold and photographic programmes of the later 20th century. It includes examples from provincial towns as well as the larger cities. This part of the collection is incredibly complimentary to our other theatre collections, which you can find out more about on our website!

A selection of the earlier programmes available in the collection.

Research Notes

Max was a diligent organiser and avid researcher of music hall, the benefits of which can be seen in his collection. He would always go the extra mile when researching on behalf of the society or members of the public and seemed to have a knack for knowing where to look for the most elusive of details. There are over a hundred files in the collection, on topics from individual performers, composers and historic events, through to animals and trains; it if it was a theme in music hall then Max was bound to have researched it in some way!

Examples of the research files in Max’s collection.

Book collection

There are just under 550 books in Max’s collection. Again, the topics of these books vary from the specific to the peripheral when it comes to music hall. There are titles written by or about music hall performers, encyclopaedias and compendiums of music hall songs, stars and theatres, through to historical and literary texts.

Books in the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

We are currently working on organising and cataloguing the collection. Material which has been catalogued can be found here if you’re looking for archival material, or here if you’re looking for items from Max’s book collection.

If you are interested in researching or simply viewing any material from this stunning collection, please do get in touch with us via specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.