What is a Gang Show?

The Beginings

It all started when 'A Holborn Rover' started producing what were to become known as 'Gang Shows' in London some 70 years ago. Who was this 'Holborn Rover'? It was, of course, the late Ralph Reader whose name is synonymous with Gang Show.

Ralph Reader became a Scout in 1914 and, at the age of 17, went to New York where he worked as a clerk and packer during the day and took dance lessons in the evenings which led to jobs in the choruses of touring Musical Shows and, eventually, to Broadway. By the age of 18, he had become a Juvenile Lead and Dance Producer.

In 1928, he returned to London to produce Musicals in the West End, soon re-establishing his Scouting contacts in Holborn where he became a Rover Scout and Scoutmaster. A few District Shows led, in 1932, to the launch of the first London Gang Show. During the War, he established the RAF Gang Shows; there were 25 Gang Show Units operating by the end of hostilities and many future Stars were born, including Dick Emery, Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers.
After the war, the London Gang Show re-started, and collected many accolades including three Royal Variety performances, Film and Television appearances, and numerous Recordings. Ralph was awarded the CBE in 1957 for services to Scouting.

The Idea Spreads

Ralph Reader wrote all the material for his 'London Gang Shows', which he then made freely available for use by the numerous other Gang Shows which had sprung up around the Movement in the UK and Overseas. During his prolific period in the late 40's through to the mid 60's, a vast amount of material was written for this unique Gang Show format (huge Casts of amateurs, all male in those days). Unfortunately, a lot of that material now seems very dated and, particularly his sketches, topical to a rather different age.

His most famous song is undoubtedly 'Crest of a Wave' which became the Signature tune of Gang Shows worldwide, and is still a firm favourite amongst Gang Shows World Wide.

Gang Shows Today

Much has changed in the world since Ralph Reader staged his first Gang Shows, and it is not surprising that the shows themselves have changed too. We know that if Ralph where here today he would be coming up with fantastic new material that reflects our modern world. We are very fortunate that we have a fantastic back stage crew that are able to stage highly professional performances, with state of the art technology, video effects and scenary.

In many respects our Gang Show is very different from what many would see as a traditional Gang Show, however  we see our show as a expansion of Ralph's original idea, moving the variety show style into a new rock show that the whole family can enjoy.

For more information on Gang Shows please visit the Scout Show pages on Scouts.org.uk >>