As the Edinburgh Gang Show approaches its 58th birthday, we cast a fond look back at a stage institution built on friendship.
1. Edinburgh’s first ever Gang Show was in November 1960 at the King’s Theatre. Following on from other cities who had established Scout based variety shows to raise funds (London in 1932, Glasgow in 1936), the Edinburgh Gang Show set out to be a celebration of Scouting aimed at empowering young people, through performance, to make a positive contribution to society.
2. In 1967, the Edinburgh Gang Show became the first Gang Show in the world to invite Girl Guides to perform, and the rest of the world soon followed suit.
3. The Edinburgh Gang Show is made up of just over 250 young people performing on stage, aged 8 to 25; 150 in the ‘junior gang’ and 110 in the ‘main gang’. The ‘junior gang’ includes two cast of Brownies (one cast does Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the other cast does Friday and Saturday shows) and the Cubs do all week. The ‘main gang’ of 100 is made up of Scouts, Explorer Scouts, Guides, Senior Section, Scout Network and Leaders.
4. Many of the Gang Show alumni come back to work in creative team roles. Andy Johnston did his first Gang Show in 1980 and he’s directing the show for the 16th year running this year. Alan Hunter, Regional Adviser (Gang Show) for South East Scotland Scouts, did his first Gang Show in 1972 and has been in this role since 2010 as well as being the Wardrobe Manager since 1996. For the past 46 years, the show has been directed by someone who has been a child in the Gang Show. Every team has someone involved who has been a cast member.
5. Up until the late 1980s when health and safety stepped in, the Gang Show core team used to ‘break the flag’ on the roof at the King’s, the tradition of raising the show flag for the week’s run at the theatre.
6. Alan Hunter, who celebrates his 47th Edinburgh Gang Show this year, first joined the show because his brother was in it. For him, the show has been and will always be about friendship. ‘I’ve made so many lifelong friends through the Gang Show’ he says. ‘I met my wife through the Gang Show and all three of my children have been through the Gang Show.’
7. This year there are only eight performers, Scout or Guide Leaders, performing in the show over the age of 18. It’s very much a show about putting young people centre stage.
8. Andy Johnston, the current Gang Show Director’s favourite anecdote about his time with the Gang Show involves a certain Edinburgh celebrity. ‘I always say Grant Stott auditioned in 1979 for the Gang Show and didn’t get in and I auditioned for the Gang Show in 1980 and did. The difference’, he says ‘is that one of us is rich and famous and the other one is still doing the Gang Show.’
9. The Edinburgh Gang Show appeared on the stage at the London Palladium at the Silver Jubilee of the British Music Hall Society on Sunday, 11 September 1988.
10. The Gang Show is probably the only show in the King’s History to have over 1000 costume changes per performance.