Ian By: Ian

88 Southampton Mayflower 17

Another view of the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton which opened as the Empire in 1931, became the Gaumont in 1948, and closed in 1986. Re-opened as a live venue in 1988 and now one of the most successful theatres in the south of England.


Southampton Mayflower Theatre

A scanned negative from 1988

  • Simon Overton 8y

    My five prized autograph books were bursting with signatures of show biz people from the U.K. and U.S.A. Two shows; 6:15 and 8:30 and we always managed to get front row center for a live programme. I waited many long hours for autographs, thus loosing the last bus having to walk home but catching some lovely Fish 'n Chips in Bitterne.

    When four famous boys from Liverpool came to play in 1962(?) I voluntered back stage as a curtain boy. George Harrison tipped me a "fiver" to get him a hip flask size bottle of whiskey and said "thanks, mush!" Then, they had the massive problem of trying to leave the Gaumont. Hundreds of screaming girls blocked the stage door, so I came up with a winner suggestion; I drove my red Mini Cooper around to the Reservations Box Office located on the front left of the building. Paul, George and John jumped in but there was no room for Ringo, so I zoomed off up Commercial Road to a plain looking white van parked on the street by the Civic Center and they left.
    I was thanked again, most profusely with another "fiver" and went home... but this was one time I forgot about getting autographs.
    Later, in 1964 I moved to Miami, Florida and was eventually stationed with the US Army in San Francisco and re-met the "Fabulous Four" at their final concert in Candlestick Park... and, once again, left without an autograph because of the countless VIP's all wanting an audience.

    Back in the early fifties, as a school boy, I always prefered to sit up high in the "gods" upper balcony and after catching my breath after climbing a zillion stairs, I'd moke a "Sharute" (long) cigarette which cost me 9d.

    The curtains intrigued me as they were always looked so gracefull gliding across the huge stage. The precenium arch was extremely high which made them sway after closing. Someone, with theatrical flair, often light them with multiple colour spotlights in the shape of various size ballons, and, with the back stage draught, caused the curtains to slowly billow back and forth, giving the affect of ballons waving like a field of corn in the wind!

    The roof-top blue lettered GAUMONT Neon sign was massive and was clearly visible across the city but the facade was quite shabby from years of smoke from the nearby railway lines.

    Many's a time my friends and I waited in long queues for a movie, going down both sides of the theater, out the back car park and into the street, but we all seemed to get in.
    Mr. Jollef(?) was the manager, a tall, ellegant gentleman who knew my father, Jock Overton who managed Oxborrows Tyres since the late 1930's in New Road. The Gaumont had the fastest ever box office cashiers (two sisters?) who rattled-out tickets and change at lightening speed and the staff usually held the last performance curtain as soon as the final patron went in the door!
    Those were my happiest days in Southampton. I'm truly delighted that this grand old lady has been lovingly restored. This I saw in a brief visit to my home town in the spring of 2000, along with my trusty video camera. But this lovely old house will always be the Gaumont to me! Many curtain calls to come.
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Taken sometime in 1988
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