The Swansea Pageant

Other names

  • Pageant of the History of Swansea and Gower

Pageant type


A pageant performed by children from local schools

Jump to Summary


Place: Brangwyn Hall (Swansea/Abertawe) (Swansea/Abertawe, Glamorganshire, Wales)

Year: 1935

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: n/a


9–14 December 1935

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Taig, Thomas

Names of executive committee or equivalent


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

  • Taig, Thomas


Mr Thomas Taig, MA, University College Swansea

Names of composers

  • Thomas, Vincent

Numbers of performers


Children from elementary and secondary schools, aged 8 to 16.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion


Audience information

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

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Associated events


Pageant outline

Key historical figures mentioned

  • John (1167–1216) king of England, and lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and of
  • Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
  • Glyn Dŵr [Glyndŵr], Owain [Owain ap Gruffudd Fychan, Owen Glendower] (c.1359–c.1416) rebel leader in Wales

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • Pageant of the History of Swansea and Gower. Swansea, 1935.

Copy at Swansea University.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Pageants in Wales 1909–1949. Dr. D.R. Davies [a collator]. National Library of Wales. Newspaper cuttings. 23/1.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Swansea Pageant, despite its grand title (indicative of the large-scale civic pageants throughout the 1930s), was actually a relatively small school event. It took place in Brangwyn Hall—famous for its indoor decorative panels by Frank Brangwyn. The artist had been commissioned in 1924 by Lord Iveagh, an Irish peer and noted philanthropist, to create the works for the House of Lords as a commemoration of the First World War – perhaps following Brangwyn’s involvement as an artist in the Empire Pageant the same year. Depicting the Dominions and other parts of the British Empire, they were completed in 1932 but already rejected as being too colourful and spirited. Swansea, which was in the process of building its new Guildhall, offered to take on Brangywn’s panels to put in its new assembly hall. The author and producer of the pageant was Thomas Taig from University College Swansea, and the performers were 851 children, aged 8 to 16, from local schools.

Since the pageant was performed indoors, something that became common in the inter-war period and even more so after the Second World War, the production technique was impressively innovative. As the local press described:

There is no proscenium—which means that not for one moment can the producer rely on the shelter of a front curtain to hide the business of setting and removing scenes. It says much for the resource and genius of Mr Taig that he has been able to devise a means of overcoming these great difficulties; or, rather, ways of eliciting the best from all the material at his disposal. He summons two property men, after the manner of the Chinese stage, to compensate for the lack of curtains. They bow to the audience and introduce themselves; then step aside, and, with many quips and cracks, produce the right rabbit out of the right hat for the rest of the evening. In watching the story of so many centuries the mental swing of the audience from one period to the next has to be very quick. Not one moment can be wasted on exposition. Mr Taig, for this end, uses films. As the tale of different buildings, famous houses, or historic places is disclosed by means of moving pictures, he takes us to the threshold of the episode being produced. This is something entirely new, and it is safe to say that there is practically no method of effective production that has not been employed.1

Of course, being a pageant for local children, efforts were made to highlight the positive educational results. The local press described the performance as ‘an interesting and valuable communal experiment.’2 This was made most clear in the Grand Finale, which portrayed the extension of education and ‘colleges, schools, and youth movements all working to the goal of a better future.’3 Children from each school then poured onto the stage: hockey and football teams, tennis and lacrosse players, Scouts, St John’s Cadets, and the Urdd Gobaith, all singing the rousing final ode:

Woven of mingled joy and pain
Is the tale of the deeds that men have done.
Ours be the task to sift the grain
And tread the path to the rising sun.
Ours is the world to make or mar,
The web to weave and the clay to mould,
The form to shape in years afar
From broken dreams of the days of old,
The dreams of the mighty men of old,
The mighty men of old.4

Concern about the fitness and susceptibility to political extremism of youth was, throughout Britain in the 1930s, an important feature of social and political culture. King George’s Jubilee Trust, a subscription fund, was set up in the same year as the Swansea pageant to assist juvenile organizations. When inaugurating the Trust the Prince of Wales described its purpose as being the support of children under eighteen, particularly those in the difficult transition between school and adulthood. These children, he believed, needed discipline, friends, and useful recreation to make them into better citizens, and to guard them from the temptations of urban life.5 More generally the Trust reflected the growing interest in the physical health movements and programmes promoted by continental dictators; this led to a consequent renewal of the ‘national efficiency’ movement in Britain.6 With the realisation that international conflict was increasingly likely, the terms of the 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act created local committees to direct central government funding towards both Local Education Authority and voluntary associations to provide or increase recreational facilities for youths especially.7 The vitality of youth, therefore, was increasingly in the 1930s positioned as the future health of the nation.

At the same time, the pageant was also an attempt to boost civic pride in the history and power of the city. An early scene showed trades and crafts developing, and the beginnings of a small town, before King John visited in the 13th century and established the town through a charter. Towards the end of the pageant narrative this aspect of economic boosterism reached fever pitch, as the minuets of fashionable ladies and gentlemen in the eighteenth century was cut short by the arrival of industries of iron, copper, steel and tin. In an episode covering the nineteenth century, the Tennant Canal was opened with great ceremony, before the final episode, which showed the passing of the Reform Acts, there was shown as a fair scene, with a robust showman declaring: ‘Roll up, roll up for the mammoth display of civic aspiration and municipal endeavour. All the local champions retained at enormous expense.’

National identity and the Welsh spirit was an important third aspect of the narrative. An early scene showed ‘The Cymry’ resist the Danes, while another—set in the twelfth century—showed the unsuccessful attack by the Welsh on Swansea Castle held by Henri de Newburgh—though, as the press described, ‘the Red Dragon of Wales’ was not ‘subdued’. In this latter episode, Welsh knights united, and their cloaks flashed back ‘amid smoke and flames to unite in a fiery dragon’.8 In a later scene came Owain Glyndwr, the personification of Welsh nationalism in pageantry, and again the dragon writhed ‘about the stage’ as the emblem of Wales flashed—though there is no evidence to suggest that Glyndwr attacked Swansea during the Welsh Revolt of 1402.

The little press coverage of the pageant, and the fact that the assembly hall could only hold around 1000 people, suggests that the week-long run of the pageant did not garner a great deal of public interest. Still, the event is notable as being seemingly the only historical pageant held in Swansea in the twentieth century. Its themes were reflective of Welsh pageantry more generally, with moments of Welsh national identity intertwined with a more general British story. At the same time, the focus on youth and civic/industrial boosterism made it very much a pageant of the 1930s.


  1. ^ ‘Swansea’s Great Pageant’ (December 1935) [no other details], 7, in Pageants in Wales 1909–1949, Dr. D.R. Davies [a collator], National Library of Wales. 23/1.
  2. ^ ‘Swansea’s Great Pageant’, 7.
  3. ^ ‘Swansea’s Great Pageant’ (December 1935) [no other details], 7, in Pageants in Wales 1909–1949, Dr. D.R. Davies [a collator], National Library of Wales. 23/1.
  4. ^ ‘Swansea’s Great Pageant’ (December 1935) [no other details], 7, in Pageants in Wales 1909–1949, Dr. D.R. Davies [a collator], National Library of Wales. 23/1.
  5. ^ ‘The Youth of England,’ The Times, 2 March 1935, 12.
  6. ^ John Welshman, 'Physical Education and the School Medical Service in England and Wales, 1907–39', Social History of Medicine 9, no. 1 (1996): 42.
  7. ^ Brad Beaven, Leisure, Citizenship and Working-Class Men in Britain, 1850–1945 (Manchester, 2005), 163.
  8. ^ ‘Swansea’s Great Pageant’, 7.

How to cite this entry

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