1st Edition

“Don’t Forget The Pierrots!'' The Complete History of British Pierrot Troupes & Concert Parties

By Tony Lidington Copyright 2023
    432 Pages 120 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    432 Pages 120 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume is the first authoritative historical textbook to look at the origins, development and evolution of seaside pierrot troupes and concert parties and their popular performance heritage.

    It will provide, for the first time, a definition of the pierrot troupe and its evolution from the roots of European popular traditions such as the commedia dell’arte and minstrelsy, to links between music hall and contemporary popular culture. Tony Lidington will explore how pierrot troupes grew from a single idea into a major international cultural industry and how it boosted morale and national identity during the two World Wars, before sublimating into contemporary pop music and comedy. Tony’s continuing practice as research provides an experiential framework for the historical and ethnographic analysis of the form.

    This book will be of vital interest to students, researchers, and performers of outdoor (al fresco) arts, clowning and comedy, minstrelsy, vernacular music-making and music hall.

    List of figures


    Support for writing and illustrations


    Note about cover images

    Preface: “The Pierrot fable”


    1 “Here we are again!”: Current practice

    2 “Trope to troupe”: The origins of Pierrot in Britain

    3 Minstrels: White and black

    4 “The Seaside Minstrels”

    5 Proliferation

    6 “Bringing Blighty to the Boys with troupes for the troops”: Pierrot troupes and concert parties in the First World War

    7 Ambiguities in the evolution of the form and its developments during the inter-war years

    8 Khaki-clad pierrot heroes: British concert parties/pierrot troupes in the Second World War

    9 “It’s that troupe again …”: Concert party adaptations for the airwaves and post-war British pop culture

    10 “Impacts and reverberations”: The ways in which the seaside troupe format has directly affected contemporary culture

    11 Conclusion: Pierrots and concert parties provide a portal to past, present and future popular culture


    Appendix 1: Timeline of pierrot/concert-party projects by Tony Lidington

    Appendix 2: Programme for Moore & Burgess Minstrels, April 14th 1877

    Appendix 3: early members of Clifford Essex’s troupe

    Appendix 4: Table illustrating the date of the first connections to seaside resorts by steamer and railway

    Appendix 5: Spreadsheet of troupes with the words “Royal” or “Imperial” in the title

    Appendix 6: List of troupes formed prior to the First World War

    Appendix 7: Song books & publishers for pierrot troupes and concert parties

    Appendix 8: List of troupes operating in the First World War

    Appendix 9: Pierrot troupe list for 1918–1939

    Appendix 10: Numbers of ENSA performances (from information provided by Basil Dean)

    Appendix 11: Annual budgetary expenditures for ENSA

    Appendix 12: List of seaside shows opening 1946–1961

    Appendix 13: The Roosters

    Glossary of terms





    Tony Lidington is associate lecturer of Drama at the University of Exeter, UK. Tony has been a professional showman for 40 years – researching and implementing British popular entertainment forms in a wide variety of contexts throughout the country. He is founder and performer of the last-remaining professional seaside pierrot troupe the "Pierrotters" and has performed at countless resorts and events as his alter ego "Uncle Tacko!"