A E Pickard "Unlimited"
BILL CROUCH continues his series on the man who played a pivotal part in the early career of Arthur Stanley Jefferson
In 1906, under Pickard the old Britannia Music Hall had been completely transformed and was now able to compete for business against rival establishments, whether it was permanent concerns like Crouch’s Wonderland, at 137 Argyle Street, owned by London showman Herbert Crouch, who also had his residence on the property, or the cheaper to operate visiting seasonal shows in the fairground spaces nearby.
This would be the area of Glasgow familiar to a teenage Arthur Stanley Jefferson in the years 1905-1907 when his father, Arthur, was managing director of the nearby Metropole Theatre in Stockwell Street, and when Stan appeared at Pickard’s Panopticon at a Friday night ‘Amateur Try-Out.’
Newspapers were the regular source for advertising shows and events and no one would go on to use their power in promoting themselves as effectively as Pickard. Along with regular acts he reintroduced Hubner’s successful Amateur Nights. (South African Arthur Hubner was a showman, stage illusionist and early film pioneer who had acquired the lease of the Britannia In 1897.)
Pickard constantly advertised for new acts. Clog dancing was popular and competitive, and in December 1906 Pickard arranged an amateur competition for the championship of Scotland.
Pickard held his first Carnival in the Panopticon at the end of December 1906, and doors were open each day at 6am.
It proved to be a great success with 17,358 visitors attending on New Year’s Day alone.
During the first years of running his complex he had great success with a succession of fasting men and women.
One of the most enthusiastic and daring of fasting men, 31 year old Swiss Victor Beaute, undertook to break all fasting records and drew large crowds at the waxworks each day. However, after 39 days, the authorities intervened for health reasons, and ordered the exhibition to be stopped. Beaute stated that he would try again within 12 months and attempt a record 50 days without food.