Tomorrow: A Pageant of Youth

Pageant type

Jump to Summary

Performances

Place: City Hall (Sheffield) (Sheffield, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)

Year: 1944

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: n/a

Notes

December 1944

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Peach, Lawrence Du Garde
  • Producer: W. Jenkins Gibson

Names of executive committee or equivalent

n/a

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Peach, Lawrence Du Garde

Names of composers

  • Elgar, Edward

Numbers of performers

n/a

Financial information

n/a

Object of any funds raised

n/a

Linked occasion

n/a

Audience information

  • Grandstand: No
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

n/a

Associated events

n/a

Pageant outline

Overture

Prologue

An old man in a dinner jacket enters and recites a prologue about his age and youth, reciting the virtues of experience. Young men and girls enter and begin mocking him. The young Compere does the same, as the youths run around. 

As the old man [the ‘Prologue’] exits, a jazz band starts up and all dance. The Compere asks them why they should pay heed to elders who have plunged the world into chaos and destruction, especially when there is dancing and a ‘last tram to Tinsley’. One boy, reluctant to write off the elders, raises the question as to who would drive the tram. The dancers continue, despite the boy’s protestations about who runs the city amenities.

Several old men gather and present dull committee reports on trams, electricity, highways, education, housing, and so on. After each has spoken for a while, a hooded figure in black (perhaps representing death?) touches them and they stop mid-sentence and exit. The boy, who unlike his peers has paid attention to this, protests and goes off to night school. Dancing continues while the old man who recited the prologue re-enters, and suggests that his generation are powerless, being trapped by previous circumstances.

1810

The scene shifts to 1810. Two elderly men are discussing the Napoleonic wars and Wellington’s victories. A young man begins speaking, and complains that he will have to clear up the mess: despite these victories, there are Luddite riots at home. One of the old men again blames ‘circumstances’ for the present state of affairs.

1645

The scene shifts to 1645, with two elderly men, one dressed as a Puritan and one a Cavalier arguing about the king, and calling each other traitors, mocking their respective religions, etc. A young man complains that he will have to clear up the mess. They both blame ‘circumstances’ for the present situation, which leaves them no choice but to kill one another.

650

The scene shifts back to 650, and Saxon times. One elderly and one young man are in conversation. The former refuses to listen to the latter’s call to defend their homes (against what it is unclear), claiming they did everything they could and again blaming ‘circumstances’.

Prehistoric Times

The scene jumps back further. Our interlocutors here are cavemen. Once again, one is old and the other young. The young caveman hysterically complains that the young aren’t allowed to speak or have a say and this is causing the wretched state of the tribe. The old man deliberately puts down the flint he was knapping, sighs, picks up a club and hits the young cave man over the head with it. The young caveman falls to the floor. The elderly caveman continues as he was, before saying: ‘You were wrong. It wasn’t circumstances. It was just too much dam trouble!’ Synopsis from ‘Pageant of Youth’, Typescript, 19: Sheffield City Archives: MD1970.

Dancing from History

The Prologue re-enters, as does the Compere. They argue about the generations, with the Prologue criticizing the youth’s dancing. In contrast, the Compere argues the youth have always danced. To prove his point, Boys and Girls from 1250 enter, and the jazz orchestra begins to play ‘Sumer is icumen in’, sung by a choir and troubadour. The troubadour then sings ‘Pan, leave piping’. 

Dancers from 1750 then enter and dance a minuet in twos.

Following this, Victorians dance the polka, which the Troubadour dislikes, followed by the ‘Blue Danube’, which he exalts. The orchestra continues by playing jazz, which the Troubador dislikes so much that he leaves the stage. The serious Boy enters and argues with the Compere. The Prologue agrees with him that all the youth does is dance, but a Girl remarks ‘That’s not true! I go to the pictures three times a week!’ [Ibid, 28] The Prologue tries to recite statistics but is crowded out. A cinema attendant enters, and girls and boys queue up. The serious Boy holds a paper and reads an advert of ‘Opportunities for young men of character in the re-shaping of the world. Salaries unlimited.’[1] The others either ignore him, or else ask superficial questions about salary or holidays. Some of the interested boys approach the Selection Committee, made up of old men who reject them after a few words for being too young, and despair of the young.

As they speak, William Pitt (aged 25) enters, and enquires if they think he is too young. They do, but he remarks that he is Prime Minister: ‘I am here as a reminder, gentlemen, that even young men sometimes have their heads on their shoulders.’ He is joined by Napoleon (a General at 26), then Keats (who died at 26), then Elizabeth (queen at 26), Joan of Arc aged 19, and Mozart—all of whom castigate the men. Jack Cornwall, who died in the Battle of Jutland aged 16, having won a Victoria Cross, addresses them, and Land of Hope and Glory is then played.

A middle-aged spinster, dressed awfully, enters and criticizes the lipstick and short skirts of the young girls. They remark that they will be condemned to domesticity and so have to grab pleasure whilst they can, suggesting their grandmothers were like that too. They sing a raunchy song about the previous generations, of mistresses, etc., and the avant-garde nature of the women of the 1890s.

The Prologue and Compere are again left alone bickering. Prologue suggests the world is a mess because the youth didn’t listen to the elders, and Compere suggests it is precisely because they did. To illustrate this the lights go up and the crowd of girl and boys give the Nazi salute and shout ‘Heil!’ Hitler is on the rostrum screaming a speech in German, with the young ‘Sieg heiling’. The two men talk about mass hysteria and the problems of democracy. The slightly bumbling official from the International Labour Office is explaining very complicated, incremental improvements in workers’ rights but it drowned out by the Cinema Attendant, offering an even better version of the previous film ‘Boy meets girl’. More jazz is played. Compere and Prologue argue further.

The orchestra plays martial calls, and the god Mars appears in armour, who calls for youth he can slaughter. The Boys come up, declaring that the British Empire is threatened. The Boys mill around a sign declaring ‘Recruits wanted’. As they walk offstage, more Boys in khaki march on from the other side. The march changes to the ‘RAF March’, and ATC cadets enter, followed by Naval Cadets, and Women’s Organisations, Land Girls, etc.

Massed Singing of Land of Hope and Glory.

Interval

Finale

The Prophet Isaiah declares the desolation of the land, but that after the sacrifices there will be peace. The Cadets continue their march, followed by young workingmen. Businessmen enter with money sacks; they recount their advantageous position as profiteers: ‘We represent big business / Our interests are vast / Our roots are international / And guaranteed to last.’ [Ibid, 58]

Suddenly the machinery stops, and the Businessmen are afraid their earnings will diminish, and that the world can’t go on without them. The Boy declares that ‘Everything can go on without you! You’re not the world we want…We want a world in which opportunity is free and equal to all – a world not governed by money bags!’ The Businessmen attempt to negotiate but are sent away, with the youth giving orders. There is various rejoicing about Youth and co-operation.

Various Biblical figures, including the Virgin Mary and Wise Men appear.

The young begin to talk amongst themselves about how to form this new world. There are further allegories of Pan, representing nature, and stonemasons and bricklayers building the New Jerusalem; while iron founders, engineers, stokers, operatives, salesmen and the public (suggesting a modified market economy system), represent the City of Sheffield. The Lord Mayor is introduced, and agrees with the Serious Boy that things are not right in the town. They both agree to try to make a change together, using age’s wisdom and youth’s idealism. The Mayor announces:

In these last few years we have learnt that A city—or a nation—or a world—can only be organised and made to function by the co-operation of all its citizens, young and old. Are you ready for that responsibility? [Ibid, 60]

The group of citizens are. Finally, other nationalities, together with the figures of John Bull, Uncle Sam, a Russian and French girl, and a Youth of China proclaim the dawn of the new world.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Pitt, William [known as Pitt the younger] (1759–1806) prime minister
  • Mary, mother of Jesus (b. c.18BC)
  • Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769-1821)
  • Keats, John (1795–1821) poet
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756–1791) composer
  • Joan of Arc [Jeanne d’Arc] (1412-1431)
  • Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945) politician and dictator

Musical production

  • Edward Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance March

Newspaper coverage of pageant

n/a

Book of words

Peach, Lawrence Du Garde. Tomorrow: A Pageant of Youth. London, 1945.

Other primary published materials

n/a

References in secondary literature

n/a

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of Typescript in Sheffield City Archives: MD1970
  • Image of Pageant available at http://www.picturesheffield.com/frontend.php?keywords=Ref_No_increment;EQUALS;s03108&pos=1&action=zoom&id=6715

Sources used in preparation of pageant

n/a

Summary

Tomorrow: A Pageant of Youth was one of a number of pageants held in Sheffield during the 1940s by Lawrence Du Garde Peach: others included the Sheffield Centenary Pageant (1944), the Co-operative Pageant (1944) and the Sheffield Pageant of Production (1948). A noted writer, broadcaster and actor, Peach was himself a Sheffield local, and gained subsequent fame as author of the Ladybird Books. ‘Tomorrow’ was indicative of Peach’s desire to refresh the tradition of pageantry with almost constant music and dancing throughout. The Pageant tells a vision of history in which each generation is influenced by a desire for pleasure and hampered by the condescension of the older generation, who blames ‘circumstance’, believing that little or nothing will change. The Pageant is an assertion of the good that the young can do in society, if they would only turn their minds towards it. And indeed the pageant shows them doing just this, the performance concluding with a grand coming together of Youth to resist fascism—an appropriate message at the height of the Second World War.

Footnotes

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Tomorrow: A Pageant of Youth’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1502/