Britannia Panopticon
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  • Britannia PanopticonTHE PANOPTICON
  • Britannia PanopticonSURVIVING MUSIC HALL
  • Britannia PanopticonMADE HIS STAGE DEBUT
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Britannia Panopticon
Britannia Panopticon


Britannia Panopticon
Britannia Panopticon

Brittania Panopticonelcome to The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall website.

Brittania Panopticon "We wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!"

Situated on Glasgow’s historic Trongate, this music hall began life in 1857 at a time when Glasgow's population was booming, and its streets were overcrowded with working folk desperate to be entertained. Music Halls were a popular form of entertainment with the working classes during the Victorian and Edwardian era. At first, they were back rooms behind pubs, though this one is different, being on the floor above! It would have held over 1500 visitors, eager to be amused and let off steam while watching the acts that ranged from singers, dancers and comedians to acrobats, animal, and novelty acts. In 1906, an eccentric showman, A.E Pickard, added a carnival, freak show, wax works and zoo to the entertainments where visitors could catch a glimpse of the Himalayan Bear in the basement or the Tattooed Lady in the attic.

Britannia Panopticon Music Hall is operated by a registered charity, The Friends of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Trust (SCIO). The aim of the charity is to promote and continue the legacy of the world’s oldest surviving music hall, advance its conservation, and ensure the building’s future as a viable visitor attraction, museum and working venue. It's a huge part of Glasgow's entertainment history and we rely a lot on our wonderful customers who leave donations. If you wish to contribute in any way, please click on the Support Us button in the bottom left-hand corner. We would love to have you onboard!

Britannia Panopticon is open to the public for shows and events including silent films, comedy club, Drag, Burlesque, variety, sing-a-longs and even a traditional old time music hall shows. Most of our shows and events are fundraisers for the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. Please check our events page for the latest updates.

Please note that we do not at this time have disabled access and there are two flights of stairs up to the music hall. A part of our fundraising currently is to raise enough money to buy a stair-climber for wheelchairs, until such times as we can have a lift installed.

We also don’t have any heating, so make sure you wrap up warm if you’re visiting us during the colder months.

If you don’t have time to see a show, we do open for general viewing and for private visits. This gives visitors an opportunity to see inside the music hall where there is an exhibition of ephemera, a pianola to play, a bar, a merchandise stall (with postcards, bags, posters, mugs, tee-shirts, stickers etc) and of course our friendly staff and volunteers are always available to regale you with tales of the history of the world’s oldest surviving music hall, from the unique acts that graced our stage, to the boisterous crowds and the secret to how this building never burnt down like so many other music halls! In 2018, Historic Environment Scotland voted Britannia Panopticon Music Hall as the Best Heritage Tourism Experience in the West Coast as part of The Scottish Thistle Awards.

The entrance to the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall is on the New Wynd, a lane that runs from the Trongate to Osborne Street and is nestled between MacDonald’s the Bakers and Mrs Mitchell’s Sweet Shop on the Trongate.

If you are a subscribing supporter or member of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall general admission is free of charge and you are eligible for discounts to most of our shows and events. If you are not a subscribing supporter or member and would like to become one, please click Support Us on the bottom left corner of your screen.

For any queries you can call us on 0141 553 0840 or email us at [email protected]


Springing Back into Life

Britannia Panopticon

At last, it seems that life is returning to normal, and it’s a good thing too as in February I celebrated 25 years since I started campaigning, fundraising and awareness raising for our beloved little music hall. It is no secret that it was love at first sight when I first managed to sneak a peek above a false ceiling (now long gone) to gaze into the balcony which was completely intact, though covered with pigeon poo. Since then, a lot has changed, the false ceiling is gone, the roof was repaired, the façade and west elevation restored, and the stage brought back into working condition. I felt that we were just starting to get somewhere, when suddenly Covid-19 happened, and we had to close the old music hall again. We have been closed for so long, I was worried we wouldn’t be able to afford to open again, and I can’t say that we are out of the woods yet. Visitor numbers are still low and attendance to our shows is not yet what it was pre-pandemic, so if you do have a pound to spare, please donate it to our Go-Fund-Me campaign.

But I am so pleased to announce that we are back open for shows and as a visitor attraction. It seems such a long time since we were able to open for our full program and we are excited to see our audiences slowly coming back in. We have just finished the Glasgow International Comedy Festival which included the return of Silent films with resident live band, Gladstone’s Bag, lead by our very own Chairman of the board, Lawrence Dunn. It was a glorious sunny day and many of our supporters left the sunshine to join us for Buster Keaton’s incredible classic “The General”. Lawrence and Gladstone’s Bag will return on May 4th with Fritz Lang’s immortal science fiction classic “Metropolis”. May the 4th be with you!

Laurel and Hardy fans returned last night for the first screening in two and a half years of Laurel and Hardy films. Laughter rang through the music hall as fans from four Tents* of the Sons of the Desert joined us and there were a few new faces in the audience too! And a member of the James Finlayson society. If you missed it, don’t worry, the “Sons” will be back in June with another hilarious collection of films from the two and only, Laurel and Hardy.
*The Sons of the Desert are the official Laurel and Hardy fan club, and each club is called a Tent.

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The General at the Panopticon

Britannia Panopticon

The Panopticon was showing films right from 25th August 1896. As cinema became more popular than music hall, A. E. Pickard, the owner from 1906, sold the building in May 1919 to the newly formed company “Britannia Pictures”. In December of that year it is being referred to as the Panopticon Theatre with lectures, and a new pianist, J. F. Macarthur, is announced. On 18th April 1920, another lecture “The Children's Red Day” is advertised at the Panopticon Theatre, The Glasgow Post Office Directory of 1920-1921 gives the building's name as Britannia Pictures Ltd. The Bioscope of 17th August 1921 reports that the Panopticon was at that time undergoing “extensive alterations”.

The Bioscope of Thursday 22nd September 1921 refers to Harry Boyle as "the new manager of the Tron Cinema". The most popular films shown there seem to have been the boxing films. There are adverts in the Daily Record for "Bob Beckett vs Boy McCormick" 19th September 1921, "Johnny Basham vs Kid Lewis" 17th October 1921 and "Kid Lewis vs Boy McCormick" 28th November 1921 . The film of the Beckett/McCormick match is called by the Pall Mall Gazette of 17th September 1921 “without doubt the best fighting film we have seen”.

The film of the Lewis/McCormick fight is available on Youtube - 17th November 1921 at the Royal Albert Hall. In June 1922 it was damaged by fire; evidence of this can still be seen at the side of the stage. In March 1923 a new manager took over; Johnny Hamilton. In September 1924 Britannia Pictures went into liquidation, but that month Kinematograph Weekly speaks about “the opening date” of the Panopticon. This may mean that it ceased to be called the Tron Cinema, and reverted to the name Panopticon; there do not seem to be any more references to the Tron Cinema after September 1924, other than the Glasgow Post Office Directory of 1926/27 . A ledger from 1924 currently on display in the auditorium gives the attendance at another boxing film " Tommy Milligan vs Kid Lewis" 26th November 1924. There seem to have been two houses on Friday 28th November (attendance – 1931), and Saturday 29th November (attendance 3419) . The attendance figures are far higher than in the rest of the ledger. Other films mentioned in the ledger are “Skid Proof” (Saturday18th October – attendance 1222) and “The Gunfighter” (Monday 13th October – attendance 956) In February 1925 Britannia Pictures (in voluntary liquidation) paid the Final Dividend to shareholders

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