Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Smoking Concerts


geraint

Recommended Posts

I've often wondered why concerts either at the front in billets, or at home were called Smoking Concerts or Smokers. Is it too simplistic to say that they were so called because the men could smoke there? Seems an odd definition. There were Sacred Concerts as well, which I presume were church organised with sacred music sung and no smoking took place. Were the Smokers so called to diferentiate from the non-smoking Sacreds?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Smoking concerts date from the 19th century and were originally as implied concerts where one could smoke but were implicitly men only events at which they could relax the rules of decorum (in the same way as ladies withdrew at the end of dinner and the men could light their cigars, sup spirits and tell blue stories). Respectable women did not smoke in public. A smoking concert was much like the working mens clubs in the good bad old days when women were not admitted and the likes of Max Miller or Bernard Manning reigned. They were much in vogue in the South African war on both sides by which time they had come to signify a free and easy event with much of the entertainment improvised or at least provided by amateurs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting point centurion, perhaps, originally, they were men only events. I've an example here at home, where a 'smoker' was held for a young munitions girl who was blinded. Perhaps by 1918 the term had become more common place?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting point centurion, perhaps, originally, they were men only events. I've an example here at home, where a 'smoker' was held for a young munitions girl who was blinded. Perhaps by 1918 the term had become more common place?

Was it held as a fund raiser but still with men only? Mind you by 1918 many women had started smoking in public.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

Not from experience of attendance, only administration, you understand, but 'Gentleman's Smoking Concerts' were common place in clubs and pubs in London as late as the 19Seventies, though I haven't seen it for a while.

The entertainment was definitely men only or 'stag', although the justification was often that they were used to raise money for charity. As a consequence the organisers would seek extension to the licensing laws and I recall seeing tickets in support of those applications.

I'd not thought about the derivation before but it makes perfect sense. Nowadays people run marathons instead!

Ken

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the early 1970's, Liverpool University Medical Union ran an annual Smoker.

It was an evening of dreadful debauchery, but great fun.

Each of the years (it took seven to qualify) had to put on a playlet, written in rhyming couplet, and upon which the judging criteria was filth, smut, bad language, nudity, and all-round awfulness. It was usually won by either 3rd or 4th year students (earlier years were too coy, and later years didn't have the time).

There was an interval, during which there was an eating contest. Each year put up a rep., who also had to provide their own bib and bucket. On stage, they had to sit there and eat such things as raw beefburgers, a dozen crackers, a pint of Watneys (God help them!) a jar of cockles, etc. The winner was the contestant who finished it all and kept it down (although what state they were in five minutes later beggars thought).

The female students entered into the spirit of the occasion but I have yet to find out when the Medical Smoker died out as a tradition at the University.

Looking back, it seems a dreadful waste of food (although not of the Watneys) and so way over the top of any form of taste as to be amazing, but it was all done in good fun and enjoyed by everyone, including the tutors who were the judges, and had to bring their own sou'westers.

Bruce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another slightly more relaxed concert series, the Proms, certainly allowed smoking in the early days. Photos show noticeboards an the fornt of stage imploring patrons "not to strike matches during the music".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd not thought about the derivation before but it makes perfect sense. Nowadays people run marathons instead!

Attend smokers and you're probably unable to run marathons!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Admin

Perhaps we ought to rejoin the ladies in the drawing room.

Oh I don't know thought it was going quite well...considering

anyway in these more enlightenerd time they've probably sneaked out to a hen nignt!laugh.gif

Ken

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Was it held as a fund raiser but still with men only? Mind you by 1918 many women had started smoking in public.

Sounds like a fund raiser as you say. In those days a "benefit" show or concert was quite common to raise money for someone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It would seem that the French had something similar (le fumier?) and a certain Marta Hari performed as an "exotic dancer" at some of the more up market ones.

A book about American circuses of about the same period reveals that many of them had side show tents showing "scenes from the classics" in which naked or near naked women posed (some police departments who had a higher bribe threshold insisted on a G sting). Performers from these would sometimes add to their income by performing as 'exotic' dancers (strippers) at smokers. Nothing much changes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes - it was a fund raiser -the 17 year old was presented with a cheque for £25 being half the money raised. The newspaper didn't state what happened to the other £25. She lived untill fairly recent, dying in the early 1990s.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a marvellous description of a smoker, see Bleak House. From their inception, they were strongly linked to fund raising and what we would call publicity events.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From memory there are a couple of references to Smoking Concerts in 'Old Soldiers Never Die' by Frank Richards. One I think was held in his honour after he got his DCM. In his context they were working class events.

Possibly the best WW1 account written.

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...