The Spirit of Youth

Other names

  • A Pageant of Youth: ‘Keeping Fit Through the Ages’

Pageant type


Held by the Birmingham Union of Girls’ Clubs and the Birmingham and District Federation of Boys’ Clubs.

Jump to Summary


Place: Central Hall (Birmingham) (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England)

Year: 1939

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 2


21 and 22 March 1939

Performances were held in the evening

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Wordfold, Olive
  • Compere: Mr. M. Fraser
  • Prologue and Epilogue: Mr. Cecil Burton
  • Chairman: Councillor Sir Ernest Canning, J.P.

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Pageant Committee

  • Chairman: Mrs. Davy Udal
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss V. Hilton
  • E. Buckley, Esq.; Mrs. Laurence Cadbury; Miss E. Downes; Miss S. Forster; Miss J. Graham Hall; Mrs. Lambert; Mrs. Monkhouse; G. Monkhouse, Esq; J. Pearson, Esq; J. Marshall Smith, Esq; Miss A.K. Southall

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

  • Burton, Cecil

Names of composers

  • Parry, Hubert

Numbers of performers


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


Synopses, where available, are taken from the programme.

Episode I: ‘The Stone Age’

Producer: Mr. John Pearson

‘The survival of the fittest’ might have been the slogan of our primitive ancestors, whom we see keeping themselves fit by hunting and warfare. The women, mere chattels with no rights of their own, tend the fire and wait upon their menfolk.

Episode II: ‘Revelry in the Middle Ages’

Producer: Miss Powell Tuck

Civilisation has advances! Woman is no longer a mere drudge, the age of chivalry has brought her freedom to express herself in movement and dance. We see ‘The Setters Brawl’, one of the first known ‘Set’ dances of English History.

Episode III: Merrie England

Producer: Mr Cecil Burton

Dancing, sport and music have by this time become part of the national life. Bowls, jousting, wrestling, part-singing all contribute to the well-being of mind and body. Villagers and courtiers find a common pleasure in whatever recreation is the order of the day. So we see a revel on the village green, celebrating the defeat of the Armada.

Episode IV: From Cromwell to Victoria

Producers: Mrs. Lambert, Miss Graham Hall, The Misses Simpson and Miss Waterman

History moves forward several hundred years. We see the Puritans and their dislike of anything that could be called worldly enjoyment or recreation. The reaction which followed is expressed in superficial arts and graces. This in its turn leads to a period characterized by the dignity and simplicity of the nursery rhymes and singing games. The episode closes with the return to frivolity of a different kind, when the first ballroom dance appears during the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria.

Episode V: In Town To-night: Birmingham, 1890

Producers: Miss Baird, Miss Inns and Miss Waterman

[No information]

Episode VI: 1939

Producers: Miss Ruth Keeble and Mr. Hughes Jones

To keep fit has become a conscious aim. Men and women, boys and girls, whatever age or size regard the Keep Fit Class as part of their normal routine, if not the highlight of it. Here we see the youth of Birmingham keeping fit and enjoying it.

Episode VII: Finale

A reminder! Already we owe a great debt to the club movement for what it has already done. We believe that this great movement cannot stand still for it has caught the spirit of our City.

The Pageant ended by Singing Parry’s England and God Save the Queen

Key historical figures mentioned


Musical production

  • The Bounrnville Youth Orchestra conducted by Mr. H. Allen
  • Madame Ethel Gradwell’s Choir
  • Soloist: Mr. M. Perry
  • Oboe Soloist: Mr. F.E. David
  • Recorder: Miss Todhunter
  • Piano Accompaniment: Jenny Wankling and Olive Perry

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Book of words


Other primary published materials


The Spirit of Youth’: ‘A Pageant of Youth “Keeping Fit Through the Ages’. Birmingham, 1939.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of programme in Birmingham City Library.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



Held in March 1939 at the Central Hall, Birmingham, this pageant was organised by the Birmingham Union of Girls’ Clubs and the Birmingham and District Federation of Boys’ Clubs. It is an example of one of the many interwar pageants staged by youth groups, the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts also being notably active. Interestingly, the theme of this pageant was ‘Keeping fit through the ages’. This emphasis reflected contemporaneous concerns about the importance of physical health to the overall vitality of the nation – an emphasis given added sharpness, perhaps, in the context of mounting international tensions. The Pageant was held in the same year as the much larger Birmingham Centenary Pageant, and it is likely that a number of performers from the Spirit of Youth performed in that.


How to cite this entry

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