The History of Waltham Forest Gang Show (formerly Walthamstow)
The first London Gang Show was performed in October 1932. During the 1930’s and post war, many groups held their own entertainment usually for parents at their own meeting place, some of which sought to emulate the London Show.
In 1949, Producer David Hill staged a District Show on 24th and 26th November and 1st and 3rd December at Lloyd Park Pavilion. This was specifically to raise funds for the “District Commissioner’s Appeal Fund” (D.C Albert Weir) – to support local Scouting and a new District HQ.
A further District Gang Show took place on 6th, 7th and 8th January 1955. A further show was planned in 1961 but did not take place.
In 1956 it was the turn of Derek Blew who produced three shows on 23rd, 24th and 25th May. Reg Harmer took on the responsibility as producer for the shows in 1957 1958 and 1960 with Len Levett who stage managed the District shows for many years at Lloyd Park Pavilion.
In 1968, Walthamstow District Cubs produced their own show on 18th, 19th and 20th April at Waltham Forest Technical College (Now Waltham Forest College) Forest Road E17. Although a section show, it boasted a cast of 147!
The 2nd Run
In 1969 it was decided by the Scout District Council to resurrect the Walthamstow Gang Show and to stage the show at Lloyd Park Pavilion. Forest Road E17. The first task was to find a Producer – no easy task. Reg Harmer the previous producer was unavailable. Further enquiries led to a man who was connected with Ralph Reader’s London Gang Show – Ron Meyer. Ron was willing to take on the show, and in 1970 Walthamstow Show was underway. He continued as Producer until 1988. During this period, in 1975, under Ron’s and Ian McMinn guidance, the show achieved Scout HQ Gang Show recognition enabling the gang to wear the Red Scarf with the distinctive ‘GS’ emblem. In the same year the show welcomed the young ladies of the Movement into the cast.
In 1974, Ralph Reader retired and so did the London Gang Show. Representatives from Walthamstow District took part as cast and backstage in the ‘Farewell’ show.
In 1976, the same year as the Cub Scout 60th Diamond Jubilee, the show opened as 39 cub scouts appeared on stage for the first time. The cubs have continued in each annual show since.
With Council changes and the introduction to ‘Culture and the Arts’ policy in the Borough, Lloyd Park Pavilion was renamed Waltham Forest Theatre.
In 1986 The National Cub Leaders celebrated their 75th Year at Gilwell Park on 27-29th June with a Pageant Produced by Ron Meyer with the cast and technical team from Walthamstow Gang Show.
From 1989 to 2000 Ron (Junior) and Jim Ridge took over as joint producers still following the example format set by Ralph Reader.
In 1992, a special one off Gang Show entitled the “Gang’s all Here,” was produced and staged at the Wimbledon Theatre, London. All the cast were performers from the many other provincial Gang Shows. The show was put on to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the first London Gang Show and as a tribute to the late Ralph Reader. Some of Walthamstow cast auditioned for the show and took part.
From 2001 – 2003 introduced Graeme Cole as Producer… Gone was most of the traditional Ralph Reader material as the 31st show was steered into a new direction providing items that were modern, lively, without losing sight of Ralph Reader’s ideals.
There was no show in 2004.
2005 and 2006, saw a team of four joint producers, Georgette Burrows, Simon Hayward, Richard Sams and Steven Sumner. The show went from strength to strength. Cast and audience numbers started to increase.
Between 2003 and 2011, the District Show was held bi-annually and alternate years “Showstoppers” Gang Show was performed jointly with the County of Greater London North East Scouts and London Over The Border Guides, and staged at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford. As most of the Production Team was heavily involved in both shows, it made sense to alternate the productions. The new ‘County Gang Show’ opened up the opportunity for more Scouts and Guides to take part and experience performing live to more young people. However, the last County Show took place in 2011.
Not long after the 2006 show, Walthamstow & Leyton Scout Districts merged to become Waltham Forest South. As this meant a wider catchment area for Scout cast, it was decided to open the invitation to Guide Groups in the same area. This also included Beavers and Brownies who would join in with the Cubs already included in the show.
In 2008 to 2014, Richard Sams took over the helm as sole Producer and later overall Show Director. With this, bought a new dimension into Gang Show entertainment, technical advancement, together with much more improved input from cast members and a pro-active production team.
In 2008 we said good bye to Waltham Forest Theatre as the building was being demolished for future parks development. With no other suitable public hall in Walthamstow, the show venue was moved to Chingford Assembly Hall. Station Road E4
In 2010 the name of the show changed to Waltham Forest Scout and Guide Gang Show and Chingford Scout District and Chingford Guides were now included to take part making it a Scout and Guide Show – Borough wide.
In June 2012, a special one off gang show was staged celebrating the 80th anniversary of the first Ralph Reader Gang Show. The show was at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Featuring 150 scouts and guides from 35 Gang Shows across the UK. Four of those cast members were from Waltham Forest.
In May 2014, Waltham Forest Gang Show celebrated its 40th show in the second run. It is very fortunate to have such a good team of dedicated people over its 40 shows history. The show is well respected within Gang Show circles, with visitors returning year after year.