Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Cromer’s summer pier show is clamped with a crab-like grip to the town’s seaside holiday face.
But it is unique - the only coastal venue across the whole country offering a full week of traditional variety entertainment.
The all-singing, all-dancing, saucy postcard-joking shows that used to be part of a bucket and spade holiday have been dying out over recent decades.
Now a book by an East Anglian show fan has charted their heydays and decline - while celebrating Cromer as the last stronghold.
Peter Phillips said: “Cromer is a one-off with its mix of variety entertainment.
“Many larger resorts have a show which just has a star and a support for a couple of nights a week.”
Mr Phillips believes audiences can be disappointed with such shows, and do not return, adding to the downward spiral.
He says the “glory days are over” for the seaside show in general, which was in danger of extinction apart from smaller outposts such as Cromer.
But his book Are There Any Holidaymakers in Tonight? charts those glory days - with an undertone that laments their passing.
Peter Phillips cut his summer show teeth at Cromer back in 1952 as a schoolboy on a wet family camping holiday when he was taken to see the pier’s Out of the Blue show.
“It was music hall songs, a lot of operetta, with men in dinner suits and women in crinoline dresses.”
But he was hooked and in adult life visited shows all over the country and has not missed a Cromer show since 1995.
Mr Phillips, from Felixstowe, cites Les Wilson, Tucker and the Simmons Brothers among his favourite headline acts at the pier, and concedes: “It is difficult finding the right sort of comedian these days as the younger ones tend to do comedy club and arena work.”
And he recalls the stars who cut their teeth at Cromer, such as comedian, actor and game show host Bradley Walsh, singer Darren Day and ventriloquist Steve Hewlett.
Mr Phillips also mourns the loss of a two-man orchestra pit which was replaced by pre-recorded backing music.
Great Yarmouth also falls under his spotlight recalling top TV acts such as Mike Yarwood, Dick Emery, Little and Large and Danny La Rue in the 1970s and 80s heydays, along with chapters on Gorleston, Lowestoft, and Hunstanton on a comprehensive trip around the coastal venues.
Mr Phillips said he wrote the book to try and capture the magic of those shows and what attracted the crowds for more than a century.
And he says the beginning of the end for the seaside summer show was just a “matter of changing times.”
Are There Any Holidaymakers in Tonight? by Peter Phillips is available from Waterstones, Troubador Publishing or Amazon, priced £12.95.
Do you agree that seaside shows are dying? What was your favourite summer show moment? Write to email@example.com