The Lancashire Cotton Pageant

Pageant type

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Place: Belle Vue Stadium (Belle Vue, Manchester) (Belle Vue, Manchester, Lancashire, England)

Year: 1932

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 16


25 June–9 July 1932

Nightly at 7.30pm and matinees on Saturdays at 3pm.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Produced and Organised [Pageant Master]: Genn, Edward P.
  • Scenario: Matthew Anderson
  • Ballet Mistress: Miss Shelagh Elliot-Clarke
  • Musical Director: Gordon E. Stutely
  • Costume Designer: Miss Winifred O. Humphreys
  • Chorus Master: W. Arthur Lomas
  • Stage Manager: Frank Etheridge
  • Master of the Music: Lieut.-Colonel J. Baldwin, DSO, OBE
  • Chief Marshals: Sidney Needoff and Miss Violet Sassoon
  • Marshall Registrar: J.H. Franks
  • Mistress of the Robes: Mrs H.E. Potter
  • Announcer: D.W. King
  • Properties Designed and Made by: T. Robinson
  • Press and Publicity Executive Officer: F. John Roe

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Advisory Council:

  • President: The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Derby, KG
  • Chairman: J.H. Grey, JP
Representing the Joint Committee of Cotton Trade Organisations:
  • J.H. Grey, JP
  • Forrest Hewitt
  • H. Boothan JP
  • F. Mills
  • W. Maxwell Reekie, OBE
  • H.G. Hughes
Representing the Lancashire Industrial Development Council:
  • T.D. Barlow
  • Major J.A. Eckes
  • A.S. Holmes
  • E. Raymond Streat, CBE
Representing the Manchester Development Committee:
  • Alderman G.F. Titt
  • H. Bacon
  • K. Russell Brady
  • Major Seymour Mead
  • R.C. Irwin, CBE
Representing the Join Dyers’ Society:
  • Councillor A. Dawson
  • J. Corbett
Representing the United Textile Factory Workers’ Association:
  • H. Boothman, JP
  • C. Speak
  • Joint Honorary Secretaries: H.G. Hughes, E. Raymond Streat, CBE, and K. Russell Brady

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: John Henry Iles
  • Edward P. Genn
  • Matthew Anderson
  • F. John Roe
  • Secretary: George Wilson

Pageantry Committee:

  • Chairman: Sir Joseph Nall, DSO, TD, MP
  • Vice-Chairman: George Nicholl
  • Hon. Secretary: F.E. Doran
  • Miss G. Clayton
  • W. Arthur Lomas
  • A.B. Dixon
  • J.H. Langridge
  • Wright Garside
  • Norman Newton
  • Leonard Royle
  • A.B. Smith
  • Gerald M. Farmer
  • Len Wood
  • George Creed
  • E.A. Mitcheson
  • Gordon E. Stutely
  • Miss Winifred O. Humphreys
  • Sydney Needoff
  • Miss Shelaigh Elliott-Clarke
  • Edward Lingard
  • Miss Violet Sassoon
  • Walter . Matthews
  • D.W. King
  • Mrs F.E. Doran
  • Mrs Jean Bird
  • H.B. Lancaster


Patrons: list dominated by mayors of Lancashire cities and towns.

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

  • Anderson, Matthew

Names of composers

  • Stutely, Gordon E.
  • Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai
  • Mancinelli, Luigi
  • Saint-Saëns, Camille
  • Ronald, Landon
  • Ketèlbey, Albert
  • Grieg, Edvard
  • Wagner, Richard
  • Thurban, Thomas W.
  • Foster, Stephen C.
  • Coslow, Sam
  • Harling, W. Frank
  • Gounod, Charles
  • Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel
  • Sousa, Berta Alves de
  • Boccherini, Luigi
  • Lalo, Édouard
  • German, Edward
  • Holst, Gustav
  • Finck, Herman
  • Fletcher, Percy
  • Parry, Hubert

Numbers of performers


5000 children; 500 ballet dancers;12000 performers in total.

Financial information

Cost: £15000

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 40000
  • Total audience: 200000


Grandstand = Belle Vue Stadium, capacity 40000.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

5s. 9d.–9d.

Evenings: 1s. 3d., 2s. 4d. (3s. 8d. and 5s. 9d. reserved)
Matinees: 9d., 1s. 3d. (2s. 4d. and 3d. 8d. reserved)
Reduced prices in the last week: 1s. and 2s. Reserved seats in grandstand: 3s. Children half price.

Associated events


Pageant outline


The prologue explains how the pageant tells the story of revolution wrought by Lancashire after the discovery of the power of work and creation, expressed through the inventiveness of the cotton industry. It goes on to declare that ‘a new world out of Northern soil’ has arisen, but warns that, from the present sickness, a new strength must grow, and that Lancashire must again lead England and the world.

Episode I. Cotton in Ancient Times

‘The Episode with which the Pageant opens gives an impression, fanciful no doubt, of how a knowledge of cotton goods might have reached another stage in its slow journey from India to Europe. In a Persian market we see the Arab traders from India introducing the Caliph to the filmy cotton garments of India—the “webs of the woven wind”—and, in turn, a group of Phoenicians handling the wonderful fabrics and carrying news of the discovery some stages farther west.’ The episode depicts several incidents: a slave auction; an attempted assassination of the Caliph by a ‘negro’, and the latter’s execution; a material sale; and a group prayer.

Episode II. Textile Workers Welcomed to England

‘This Episode portrayed the fruitful trade connections between England and Flanders, which influenced the foreign policy of England for hundreds of years and stimulated the manufacture of textiles. The scene is the court of William the Conqueror and Matilda, his Queen—a Flemish princess who was reputed to be the designer of the Bayeaux Tapestry. The King and Queen are attended by courtiers, clergy, clerks, knights gentry, ladies, jesters, bowmen, huntsmen with hawks, huntsmen with dogs, yeomen, villains, cottars and bordars, bondsmen, traders, gleemen and fiddlers.’ Flemish immigrant weavers are brought forward to be received and to present gifts of cloth to the Queen.

Episode III. Lancashire at the Dawn of the Industrial Revolution

‘While the textile industry grew in wealth and importance and the gradual introduction and use of cotton raised Manchester and some of its small East Lancashire neighbours to places of considerable importance, the county was still regarded by southerners as being remote and wild, and almost impenetrable. Roads were often mere tracks which could be traversed only by pack-horses. Lancashire people were said to be a species of ogre. Every Lancashire village, according to one writer, had its witches. Ghosts walked on stilts on the mosses and sprites of the hill country rode on flashes of fire.’ The episode consisted of a Witches’ Rendezvous, flying on broomsticks and causing magic, before being interrupted by a Lancashire farmer and fleeing.

Episode IV. The American Cotton Fields

‘The scene is a cotton plantation in which the “coloured” workers, in the charge of white overseers, are picking cotton for Lancashire mills. The cotton plants are represented by children who wear green clothes and white fluffy head-dresses. The women are dressed in gay colours on body and head. Their movements, rhythmic and carried out to music, suggest the picking of cotton. A preacher harangues the workers while the picking proceeds. Spirituals are sung and the workers and the cotton field are worked up into a mood of ecstasy.’

Episode V. The Age of Inventions

‘The scene at first consists of a picture of the domestic system, which was speedily superseded by the inventions of Lancashire men whose names are now world-famous. The workers under the domestic system were small agriculturalists as well as industrialists, and the whole family, from the young children upwards, shared in the labour of the fields and helped to prepare the wool or cotton for the spindle and the yarn for the loom. The grandmother is spinning, the head of the house is weaving, a child is assisting, and the rest of the family are working in the field within call. These groups are duplicated four or five times, with variations. We next see John Kay and a number of assistants with the flying-shuttle; James Hargreaves with his spinning Jenny; Richard Arkwright with his water frame; Samuel Crompton with his mule; and Edmund Cartwright with his power loom. As the inventors come on, the domestic workers become anxious, then alarmed, and make a demonstration against the newcomers. The inventors and their assistants motion them away and finally the handloom workers, in despair, but with occasional protests, retreat from the arena.’

Episode VI. The Revolt against the Machine

‘This episode shows the attempt to wreck Mr Burton’s power loom factory at Middleton. An Oldham crowd, accompanied by miners from Hollinwood, “united with the rude uncultured savages of Saddleworth and formed an assemblage of the most desperate cast.” They are joined by a “Middleton mob”. The Saddleworth and Oldham contingents are the most active. On reaching a point near the factory, the crowd are addressed by Mr Burton who, backed by servants and others, shouts: “If you dare to attack this factory I will resist with force of arms”. Stones are thrown by the rioters. Burton and his men advance to drive the crowd away, and a general fight ensues. Eventually, the combatants pause to watch two men engaged in a fierce bout of fisticuffs on a knoll. One man is knocked down and the general fight recommences. The defenders are driven behind a barricade from behind which they fire, killing five and wounding eighteen persons. They then sally forth and chase the rioters from the arena.’

Episode VII. Communications

Scene A. The Pack-Horse

‘The scene shows a convoy of Manchester goods on their way to Liverpool for export. The goods are slung across the backs of the horses, pannier fashion.’

Scene B. The Stage Coach

‘The scene shows the Manchester–London stage coach carrying the Royal Mail and a number of cotton merchants and their ladies, and describes an adventure with gentlemen of the road. The body of a highwayman swings in chains upon a gibbet on the lonely heath over which the coach is about to pass. A highwayman trots forward to reconnoitre, and, having seen the approaching coach, gallops back to give the warning to his companion. The mails are rifled and the passengers robbed, but the alarm is given to soldiers by a boy passenger, and, after a chase, one of the highwaymen is captured; the other escapes.’

Scene C. The Railway

‘The scene is a fanciful reconstruction of a train of 1832, by means of a ballet.’

Episode VIII. Political and Economic Disturbances

‘The scene is St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, 16 August 1819. Reformers—men, women, and children—dressed in their Sunday best and moving gaily as on holiday-making bent, are pouring into Manchester from East Lancashire towns. Bands are at the head or in the centre of each contingent. Banners, with suitable slogans, are carried, and caps of liberty of Phrygian shape, reminiscent of the French Revolution are held aloft. The Middleton procession consists of groups of youths in front wearing laurels, representatives of districts (five abreast), the band, the colours—bearing the following inscriptions: ‘Unity and Strength’, ‘Liberty and Fraternity’, ‘Parliaments Annual,’ ‘Suffrage Universal.’ Women and girls dance and sing. Other towns, such as Chadderton, Royton, and Oldham, also have banners. The banner of Saddleworth, Lees and Mossley Union is inscribed ‘Equal Representation or Death. United and be Free. No Borough Mongering. Taxation without Representation is Unjust and Tyrannical.’ The huge crowd takes up its position around the hustings, which consist of two farm carts with boards. They are decorated with flags. From the hustings near to the house where the magistrates are watching there are two lines of special constables. Hunt comes slowly through the multitude in an open carriage. He stands up and we see that he is tall and handsome. He acknowledges our salutations with the white hat which he wears. The President of the Manchester Female Reformers, Mrs Mary Fildes, sits on the box seat of the carriage. The Committee of the Female Reformers, all in white dresses, walk behind the carriage. Preceding the carriage is a man holding up a board with the words: ‘Order! Order!’ On arrival at the hustings, Hunt removes his white hat and addresses the meeting, instructing them to be orderly. But he is interrupted by trumpets, as the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry appear on the outskirts of the crowd. A woman and child are killed by the horsemen. Hunt instructs them to stand fast, and to give three cheers. An officer arrests Hunt. Confusion reigns, and flags are torn from the demonstrators. The crowd scatters and flees in disorder, though some rally and throw stones at the Yeomanry. The scene is eventually one of dead and dying men and women, and items of clothing scattered across the scene. A wild tattered figure mounts the hustings and recites verses from ‘The Mask of Anarchy.’ Eventually a soldier pulls him down from the hustings and hands him over to the special police.’

Interval of fifteen minutes

Episode IX. A Lancashire Market Day

‘This scene will show Market Day as it was, and also as we hope it might have been. Incidents: setting up the stalls; chasing the thief; putting the culprit in the stocks; a Cheap Jack giving his windy oration; arrival of the shoppers on foot, horse-back, and in farm carts. A stage coach arrives with clatter and trumpeting; the market crowd sings Lancashire folk songs, and lads and lasses dance around the Maypole.’

Episode X. Lancashire at Work

‘This episode is an attempt to create the illusion of a working day in the life of a cotton operative. First the heartless knocker-up, murdering sleep, thrusting poor souls, slaves of the machine, out of sweet oblivion and warm beds to shuffle down a chill dawn to the mill. A hunched-up man launches himself mechanically into the morning, and slouches slowly off with collar up and chin on his chest. Another follows. Another, another. A pair, more alive, another man, but this one looks up at the sky. A girl, two girls talking. A man and a girl laughing. Feet move no longer with a protesting shuffle. Clip-clop. The clogs clatter excitedly. There are sticks beating on kettle-drums. Shouted greetings. “Good morning!” A hooter goes. Somebody runs. The town is awake! A chorus of hooters. The machines rouse themselves. Slowly they loosen their joints; sleepily they thaw the stiffness of night in their glistening limbs. A little faster—faster—fast—a whirling madness—a Niagara of noise—the machines are awake’.

A Spinning Ballet: A Weaving Ballet [it is unclear exactly what took place during this episode; and whether these were separate or the same ballet]

Episode XI. Lancashire at Play

‘The scene is a Wakes Week on a Lancashire Beach. The bathing belles of the railway posters will be there; the donkeys, ventriloquists, quack doctors, your photo-in-a-minute men, coloured ice-cream carts; the mothers with their knitting and paper-bag luncheons, the fathers, trousers rolled up, naked to the knees; the buckets and spades in the hands of the children who give an occasional reminder that the seaside is not all the time a paradise of peace and goodwill; and the brisk young men, who provide us with their idea of a donkey ballet. This scene is Lancashire at play in its own amazing, indescribable, mad, jolly, healthy way.’

Episode XII. Lancashire Cotton for the World

‘Here we shall see the peoples of the world, presided over by King Cotton, clothed in the products of Lancashire looms. Seated on the peak of his immense triumphal car, modelled on the most modern lines, King Cotton is drawn into the arena by hundreds of children and takes his place in the centre of the arena. Mannequins follow the car, and then the peoples of the world, robed in Lancashire fabrics, enter in the following order: Early Egyptians; Red Indians; Japanese; Egyptians; East Indians; Chinese.’

Grand Finale

Muster of Pageant performers who join in the Lancashire Cotton Pageant Song, ‘The Red Rose,’ followed by the final chorus, ‘Jerusalem.’

Key historical figures mentioned

  • William I [known as William the Conqueror] (1027/8–1087) king of England and duke of Normandy
  • Matilda [Matilda of Flanders] (d. 1083) queen of England, consort of William I
  • Kay, John (1704–1780/81) inventor of textile manufacturing machinery
  • Hargreaves, James (bap. 1721, d. 1778) inventor of the spinning jenny
  • Arkwright, Sir Richard (1732–1792) inventor of cotton-spinning machinery and cotton manufacturer
  • Crompton, Samuel (1753–1827) inventor of the spinning mule
  • Cartwright, Edmund (1743–1823) Church of England clergyman and inventor of a power loom
  • Hunt, Henry [called Orator Hunt] (1773–1835) radical

Musical production

Cotton Pageant Military Band.
Conductor and Pageant Musical Director: Gordon E. Stutely.
Flutes and Piccolos, Clarinets, Cornets, Basses, Oboes, Saxophone, String Bass, Bassoons, Timpani, French Horns, Trumpets, Trombones, Drums, Cymbols, Euphoniums.

Choir of 1500 under the direction of Arthur W Lomas.

  • Episode I is preceded by the Pageant Overture: ‘Lancashire Cotton Pageant March’ (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode I. ‘The Festival of Baghdad’ from ‘Scheherazade’ (Rimsky-Kersakow [Korsakov]). 
  • Episode I. ‘Cleopatra March’ (Mancinelli).
  • Episode I. ‘Danse Macabre’ (Saint-Saens).
  • Episode I. Prelude from ‘The Garden of Allah’ (Landon Ronald).
  • Episode I. Extract from ‘In a Persian Market’ (Ketelby [Ketelbey]).
  • Episode II. ‘O Sons and Daughters Let us Sing’ (Ancient Song for Easter Day, from ‘Spiritual Songs’ Harmonised and Arranged by Walford Davies).
  • Episode II. March: ‘Knights of the King’ (Kazelby [Ketelbey]).
  • Episode III. ‘Morning’ (Grieg).
  • Episode III. ‘Dance of the Imps’ (Grieg).
  • Episode III. ‘Incantation Music’ (Stutely).
  • Episode III. ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ (Wagner).
  • Episode III. ‘Morning’ (Grieg).
  • Episode IV. ‘Tiger’s Tail’ (Thurban).
  • Episode IV. ‘Old Folks at Home’ (Words and music by Stephen C. Foster).
  • Episode IV. ‘Camptown Races’ (Stephen C. Foster).
  • Episode IV. ‘Sing you Sinners’ (Words and Music by Sam Coslow and W. Frank Harling).
  • Episode V. Overture ‘Mirella’ (Gounod).
  • Episode V. Grand March from ‘Othello’ (Coleridge-Taylor).
  • Episode VI. ‘Sigurd Jorsalfar Suite’ (Grieg).
  • Episode VI. ‘Fight Music’ (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode VII. ‘King Cotton March’ (Sousa).
  • Episode VII. ‘Minueto’ (Boccherini).
  • Episode VII. ‘Fight Music’ (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode VII. ‘Train Ballet’ (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode VIII. Overture ‘Le Roi d’Ys’ (Lalo).
  • Episode IX. Dances from ‘Nell Gwyn’ (Edward German).
  • Episode IX. Morris Dance (Edward German).
  • Episode IX. ‘Peace-Egging Song’ (Folk Song).
  • Episode IX. ‘King Arthur’ (Folk Song).
  • Episode IX. ‘Maypole Chorus’ (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode IX. Maypole Dance: ‘Galopede’ (Traditional).
  • Episode IX. Maypole Chorus: ‘The Old Mole’ (Traditional).
  • Episode X. Spinning Chorus from ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (Wagner).
  • Episode X. ‘Morning’ (Grieg).
  • Episode X. ‘She’s a Lassie fra’ Lancashire’.
  • Episode X. ‘Mars’ from ‘The Planets’ (Holst).
  • Episode X. Le Rouet d’Omphale’ (Saint-Saens).
  • Episode XI. ‘I Do Like to Be beside the Seaside’.
  • Episode XI. ‘March of the Giants’ (Fincke).
  • Episode XI. ‘Hampstead Heath’ (Kazelby [Ketelbey]).
  • Episode XI. ‘She’s a Lassie Fra’ Lancashire’.
  • Episode XI. ‘Popular Songs of 1932’/
  • Episode XII. Fanfare no. 1 (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode XII. March: ‘Spirit of Pageantry’ (Fletcher).
  • Episode XII. Fanfare no. 2 (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode XII. ‘The Crown of Chivalry’ (Fletcher).
  • Episode XII. Fanfare no. 3 (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Episode XII. Chorus: ‘The Red Rose’ (Gordon E. Stutely).
  • Grand Finale. ‘Jerusalem’ (Parry and Blake).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Manchester Guardian
The Times

The pageant was widely reported in the local press, especially in Lancashire and Yorkshire (see Lancashire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer).

Book of words

Anderson, Matthew. The Lancashire Cotton Pageant. Manchester, 1932.

Copy at Manchester Local Studies Library.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature

  • Wallis, Mick. ‘Delving the Levels of Memory and Dressing up in the Past’. In British Theatre between the Wars, 1918–1939, edited by Clive Barker and Maggie Barbara Gale. Cambridge, 2000. 190-214.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Virtual Belle Vue has news cuttings from the preparation of the pageant. Accessed online 27/05/2016
  • Manchester Archives: ‘Photographs Related to Mrs Kelly and a Cotton Pageant.’ GB124.DPA/816.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Lancashire Cotton Pageant was a large and spectacular affair staged 16 times in the summer of 1932. Because the pageant was focused on cotton, Manchester was a natural home for the event. But it was definitely a product of the whole County. The patrons were dominated by the mayors of industrial towns and cities throughout Lancashire, and representatives from Liverpool, Stockport, Rochdale, and Oldham, and others eagerly got involved, sponsoring each of the sixteen performances. The 12000 strong mostly amateur cast was also county-wide. It was, in many ways, one of the most ambitious and successful of the ‘new breed’ of inter-war pageants. It was a typical example of the pageantry being used, during the years of the Great Depression, as a way to boost both the morale and spirits of the flagging industrial centres of Britain.

The pageant, which cost a whopping £15000, was organised by the Joint Committee of Cotton Trades’ Organisations, the Lancashire Industrial Development Council, and the Manchester Development Committee. Despite the ambition shown in its creation, the organisers were under no illusions about the difficulties that the textile industry was facing—as a ‘short history of the Lancashire cotton trade’ by A.P. Wadsworth, editor of the Manchester Guardian, in the souvenir programme made clear. Lancashire, Wadsworth argued, would have to hold a different place in world commerce than it had occupied in the nineteenth century, as it was forced to adapt to greater competition and expertise in both new and older cotton producing countries. J.H. Grey, Chairman of the Executive of the Joint Committee of Cotton Trade Organisations, as well as Chairman of the pageant, flagged up many different ways that the industry would have to do better: in research; in new fabrics and new uses; in co-operative action; and in better salesmanship. Schemes such as the British Textiles Exhibition and a National Cotton Week the previous year, and the grand Lancashire Cotton Pageant itself, were examples of the salesmanship and advertising he thought could be used to ward off industrial decline. After the world depression had abated, he had ‘every confidence in Lancashire’s ability to hold her leadership in international trade. In a world of 2000 million people, there will always be room for the pioneer.’2

The Earl of Derby, President of the pageant, in his foreword to the souvenir programme, saw the pageant as ‘an encouraging sign of the times that Lancashire is embracing all those modern methods of advertising and propaganda’—especially since it depended on the voluntarism of everyday people.3 12000 performers were pretty hard to come by, however, and the organisers had consistent trouble trying to recruit women—especially for the scenes on a Lancashire beach, which required a lesser state of dress! The take-up was certainly boosted, however, by the promise of a four-month season ticket to the Belle Vue amusement park for all performers.4 Derby nonetheless hinted that the pageant might be the ‘beginning of a Renaissance of the Lancashire Spirit which will bring us speedily to a solution of our troubles.’5 As historians have pointed out, it was the 1920s and 1930s more generally that saw the emergence of a civic ‘regenerative promotion’ in the context of economic instability and uncertainty.6 Historical pageants, which had been a feature of industrial boosterism since the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, were a key part of this phenomenon.

Masterminding the storyline and the production was the established partnership of Matthew Anderson and E.P. Genn. The latter had the necessary theatrical experience, having written plays for the radio and founded a children’s theatre, as well as being involved with pageantry and producing scenic and costume design in Liverpool. But it was Anderson who had really led in the development of industrial pageantry boosterism. He epitomised the emergence of a new breed of urban pageant master in the inter-war period and the convergence of publicity and pageantry. He was born in Kilmarnock, the son of the locally famous ‘Policeman-Poet of Ayrshire’ (also named Matthew Anderson). A police constable in the County Force for 36 years, Anderson senior was a native of Waterside, also known as Dunaskin—a small but vibrant industrial village in Ayrshire’s historic Doon Valley. An enthusiast of local history and culture, both of which inspired much of his substantial outpouring of poems, it is likely that the ‘Policeman-Poet’ passed on his interests to Anderson junior.7 But while he took up his father’s interest in history and heritage, he did not follow his father into policing, instead forging a career in journalism. He worked first as a junior reporter for the Southern Reporter, the Scottish border newspaper, before the outbreak of the First World War. At the age of 19 Anderson was, impressively, promoted to editor and given the responsibility of writing leaders on both foreign policy and local government.8 After the Armistice he took up an editorial position at the Manchester Guardian.9

It is probable that it was while working at the Guardian, the bastion of municipal support in the city still under the leadership of the noted liberal and municipal enthusiast C.P. Scott, that Anderson became more attuned to the place of civic publicity. In 1925, the newspaper had taken the initiative in publishing the first attempt of the period to explain and promote local government: the Manchester Guardian Yearbook.10 Soon after, Manchester City Council began publishing its own handbook: How Manchester is Managed, hiring Anderson to act as author and editor.11 Published annually from 1925, it discussed the range of activities undertaken by the council, and shared a similar approach to the Guardian Yearbook. By the 1930s, 10000 copies were printed annually and given to schools, libraries, and local conferences.12 Anderson’s work in Manchester brought him to the attention of the emerging civic boosters in Liverpool and, in 1926, he became the Director of Publicity for the Liverpool Organisation, reinventing himself as a ‘publicity expert’.13 The Liverpool Organisation was one of the first development bodies in the country, arguably growing out of the enthusiasm generated by Liverpool’s Civic Weeks at the Festival of Empire in 1924. Bringing together industry and local government in Merseyside, its purpose was to establish and increase new trade in the area.14

Anderson inherited some of the creative flair of his father as well as his interest in local history. When working as a journalist in Scotland, he contributed weekly poems to the Southern Reporter, and, in the 1920s, he also penned short stories. While he was working at the Manchester Guardian, he was also involved in the ‘resuscitation’ of the Repertory Theatre, which had fallen on hard times.15 Pageants, with their romanticised and poetic evocation of the past, and their economic usefulness in the present, were a logical next step. Anderson’s first foray into pageant-mastering was seemingly in 1926, when he produced, with Edward P. Genn, a small historical pageant of sorts as part of the opening ceremony of the Liverpool Civic Week. Performed only once, it was partly processional and took place on the steps of the Town Hall.16 In 1930 he again teamed up with Genn to produce the Pageant of Transport, commemorating the centenary of the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.17 The pair went on to produce the Pageant of Wakefield (1933) and the Pageant of Labour (1934). Alongside the pageant there were various civic events in Manchester and Liverpool, from luncheons to speeches, and an exhibition designed to ‘give a conspectus of the evolution of railways from the beginning to the present day.’18

As Anderson pointed out in the boosterist magazine Civic Progress and Publicity, pageants conferred benefits of which most schemes could usually only dream: a continuous flow of press references before, during and after the event, without having to pay for advertising; an opportunity for impressing on the minds of people the advantages of the town as an industrial centre; and, not least, the stimulation of local pride and patriotism. As he concluded, ‘Pageants pay. Not only do they pay for themselves, but usually they leave a very handsome profit… Several thousands of its citizens spend enjoyable months preparing for the pageant, local tradesmen increase their turnover, and the ordinary man and woman become keener and more appreciative citizens.’19 Of course, at the centre of the Cotton Pageant was an underlying fear about the decline of the industry in the face of rapidly growing foreign competition, the operation of tariffs, and the perceived burdens of taxation. As Fred Mills, an industrialist on the Joint Committee of Cotton Trade Organisations publically acknowledged, many were talking about the industry as if it was ‘a spent force’.20 When Ellis Green, the Lord Mayor of Manchester, officially opened the pageant at Belle Vue, he declared that ‘behind all this showmanship was the underlying thought that Lancashire’s great cotton industry must be advertised, and advertised flamboyantly, vociferously… The industry must “bang the drum”, and bang it hard.’21 As the desire to create citizens in a period of unstable politics and social relations met with the economic dislocation of the early 1930s, the pageantry vision of Matthew Anderson seemed to be the perfect antidote to both.

In production terms the pageant relied steadfastly on music and spectacle. Only six performers had speaking parts, and even these were very minor.22 In contrast, every episode had around three to five musical pieces to accompany the action. For Genn, the change in style seemed to be less about industrial boosterism and more about producing a livelier and more people-orientated production. He admitted with relish that the pageant would

bear no resemblance to the type of civic history pageant which, so far as I have seen it, is an artistic abomination… We want to get away from the tiresome pageant tradition of Romans, Saxons, monks and knights wandering like lost, unshepherded sheep across a field in front of a flimsy property castle… showing the country something new and better in the skill and technique of pageantry.23

He further elaborated:

We want to show Lancashire as a great province of heroic achievement built up on the struggles, sufferings and sacrifices of the men, women and children instead of in terms of music-hall humour and dialect comedy. The orthodox pageant deals with local history in such a way that the whole thing is indecipherable to a stranger without a programme. The Cotton Pageant will be so clear that anyone from the other side of the world would be able to understand what it was all about.24

In hindsight, Genn’s promise rings a bit hollow. In terms of episodes, the pageant was anything but clear, being a hodge-podge of events, themes, countries and fiction often only loosely linked to the Lancashire trade of the twentieth century that they were so eager to boost. It opened with ‘Cotton in Ancient Times’, focused on a Persian cotton market with all sorts of amusing and spectacular incidents to whet the appetite of the audience. The second episode showed Flemish weavers being welcomed to England by William the Conqueror and Queen Matilda—noteworthy as being the only scene that featured a traditional pageantry King and Queen. The pageant, only in its third episode, then skipped around eight centuries to come to ‘Lancashire at the Dawn of the Industrial Revolution’. By ‘dawn’, this scene bizarrely meant Macbeth-esque witches flying on broomsticks and casting magic spells, before being interrupted by a Lancashire farmer and fleeing. The fourth scene returned to reality but went across the ocean to North America and the Cotton Fields, using the ‘exotic’ world of African-American dance and music to continue the lively entertainment of the pageant. The fifth episode, ‘the Age of Inventions’, showed the common people who participated in the industry, as well as famous figures like Samuel Crompton and Edmund Cartwright. The scene ended with a premonition, as handloom workers, in despair at the potential of losing their jobs to machines, retreated from the arena. The next scene was, therefore, the Revolt Against the Machines, with Luddite rioters attacking a factory. With fights and shooting, this scene was again an attempt to provide the sort of entertainment that might have been found at the Belle Vue amusement park on any given day. The seventh scene, entitled simply ‘Communications’, portrayed the development of transport—from Pack-Horse through Stage-Coach to finally the Railway—shown ambitiously through an interpretative ballet! The final scene before the interlude garnered most press attention, was probably the most historically faithful, and was assumedly the most contentious: the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. Anderson and Genn did not hold back, showing mass confusion, violence and death. It seems likely that the producers were, at the least, sympathetic to the cause of the workers since, in 1934, the London Trades Council mounted an indoor Pageant of Labour at Crystal Palace, designed to recruit young people to the union movement, with music by communist composer Alan Bush and script and direction by Anderson and Genn.

After the break the tone was much more jovial and the pageant lost almost all semblance of historical pageantry proper. Successive scenes of Lancashire at Work and Lancashire at Play were more about showing the everyday, contemporary, lives of the people in a fun and spectacular way. The final episode, Lancashire Cotton for the World, showed a portly King Cotton presiding over the people of the world clothed in Lancashire goods. The Grand Finale entailed the return of all performers and the singing of the Cotton Pageant Song, ‘The Red Rose’. The chorus thankfully summed up what the often bizarre narrative had been all about:

Loom and spindle, spindle and loom,
Beam and bobbin, and lathe and drill!
May the Red Rose stand for the strength of the land,
As it glows at the heart of the county still!25

It was, then, an exercise in entertainment and publicity. The Manchester Guardian quipped that the pageant should help to save cotton, since ‘it sticks to cotton all the time… The thread is never off the bobbin.’26 The pageant received a fillip from the visit of Prince George for one of the performances. Invited by the Earl of Derby, the pageant President, he watched the pageant from a specially erected Royal Box and was well received by the crowds.27 Overall, the approach seemed to work—though the Manchester Guardian’s review was somewhat mixed. It called the first episodes ‘weak’ and diffuse’, with too much going on at once; the second, by contrast, it termed of too ‘slight a spectatorial value to capture the attention’. The following episodes fared better, in the Guardian’s judgement, especially those that featured large crowds, and the Grand Finale was singled out for special praise, helping Lancashire goods to be ‘flamboyantly advertised’.28 The Times was much kinder, declaring: ‘As a series of spectacles the successive episodes are always interesting… In all there is the same excellent staging and drill and accurate timekeeping… The sense of romance about the cotton industry has not been killed by the depression’.29 The press predicted that up to 250000 would visit the pageant, and were not far off—around 200000 saw the performance, a massive success for any pageant, inter-war or Edwardian.30

In summary, the Lancashire Cotton Pageant was an important development in the pageantry movement. Anderson and Genn had recognised the emerging attractiveness of pageantry to urban and industrial boosterism and really taken this to the next level. Historicity was now less important than spectacle and entertainment. Although various episodes had dealt with the past of the cotton industry, the main motive of the pageant was to emphasise its present importance and romance. Louis Napoleon Parker, the originator of the historical pageant, had become disillusioned by the movement for these very reasons. In his autobiography, published in 1928, he had railed against the ‘speculators’ who had begun to ‘commercialise pageants’, affixing the word pageant ‘to almost everything’—including such ‘curiosities as a Pageant of Rain; a Pageant of Sunshine; a Pageant of Motor-Cycles; a Pageant of Fog; a Pageant of Summer Hats; and this masterpiece: a Pageant of Lingerie.’31 The Pageant of Lancashire may not have been quite this abhorrent to Parker, but it was undeniably part of a new breed that had lost many of the original defining features—not least the concentration on local history and small towns. Yet it was an incredible success, engaging not just the huge casts, like the civic pageants popularised by Frank Lascelles, but also an incredible attendance as well. Historical pageantry was certainly not dead by the 1930s, but it was not the same beast that it had been before 1914.


  1. ^ ‘The Pageant Closes’, Manchester Guardian, 11 July 1932, 11.
  2. ^ J.H. Grey, Chairman of the Executive of the Joint Committee of Cotton Trade Organisations, ‘The Future of the Lancashire Cotton Trade’, in Matthew Anderson, The Lancashire Cotton Pageant (Manchester, 1932), 81
  3. ^ Earl of Derby, KG, ‘Foreword’, in Anderson, The Lancashire Cotton Pageant, 12.
  4. ^ Letter from E.P. Genn to Manchester Guardian, 18 November 1931, 2 pages of cuttings (November 1931 and February 1932), Virtual Belle Vue, accessed 8 May 2015,
  5. ^ Earl of Derby, KG, ‘Foreword’, in Anderson, The Lancashire Cotton Pageant, 12.
  6. ^ Stephen V. Ward, ‘Time and Place: Key Themes in Place Promotion in the USA, Canada and Britain since 1870’, in Place Promotion: The Use of Publicity and Marketing to Sell Towns and Regions, ed. John R. Gold and Stephen V. Ward (Chichester, 1994), 64.
  7. ^ Donald L. Reid, Discovering Matthew Anderson: Policeman-Poet of Ayrshire (Beith, 2009), 6–7.
  8. ^ ‘Former Duns Journalist’s Appointment’, Berwickshire News and General Advertiser, 9 March 1926, 8.
  9. ^ Southern Reporter, 4 March 1926, 4.
  10. ^ Manchester Guardian Year Book (Manchester, 1925), 12.
  11. ^ M. Anderson, ed., How Manchester is Managed: A Record of Municipal Activity (Manchester, 1925), 2.
  12. ^ ‘In Manchester’, Manchester Guardian, 2 November 1929, 15; ‘Classified Ad 102’, Manchester Guardian, 23 April 1938, 5; G.M. Harris, Municipal Government in Britain: A Study of the Practice of Local Government in Ten of the Larger British Cities (London, 1939), 270; ‘In Manchester’, Manchester Guardian, 12 November, 1930, 11.
  13. ^ ‘Publicity Expert’, Southern Reporter, 11 November 1926, 4.
  14. ^ ‘A New Post’, Southern Reporter, 24 February 1938, 4.
  15. ^ ‘Former Duns Journalist’s Appointment’, 8.
  16. ^ ‘Liverpool’s Civic Week’, Yorkshire Evening Post, 15 October 1926, 10.
  17. ^ See ‘Liverpool Puts on Bunting’, Manchester Guardian, 11 September 1930, 13 and ‘Rail Centenary Pageant’, Manchester Guardian, 29 August 1930, 11 for a description and review of the action of the pageant.
  18. ^ ‘Lancashire’s Rail Centenary’, Manchester Guardian, 10 September 1930, 11.
  19. ^ Matthew Anderson, ‘The Importance of Pageants in Community Advertising Schemes’, Civic Progress and Publicity 1, no. 6 (March–April, 1932), 10-12.
  20. ^ ‘The Cotton Pageant’, Manchester Guardian, 17 June 1932, 13.
  21. ^ ‘The Pageant Opens’, Manchester Guardian, 27 June 1932, 11.
  22. ^ Burnley Express, 18 June 1932, 13.
  23. ^ Letter from E.P. Genn to Manchester Guardian, 18 November 1931.
  24. ^ ‘Pageant of Fresh Ideas’, Daily Herald, 20 November 1931, 2 pages of cuttings (November 1931 and February 1932), Virtual Belle Vue, accessed 8 May 2015,
  25. ^ Anderson, The Lancashire Cotton Pageant, 42.
  26. ^ ‘The Pageant Opens’, Manchester Guardian, 27 June 1932, 11.
  27. ^ ‘Prince George at Cotton Pageant’, Manchester Guardian, 6 July 1932, 11.
  28. ^ ‘The Pageant Opens’, 11.
  29. ^ ‘Romance of Cotton’, The Times, 27 June 1932, 9.
  30. ^ ‘Pageant Season’, Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 17 June 1932, 6;
  31. ^ Louis Napoleon Parker, Several of My Past Lives (London, 1928), 297–98.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Lancashire Cotton Pageant’, The Redress of the Past,