Entertainments at Belle Vue Park

By the early 1900s there were other entertainments in the park as well as band performances. One of the earliest of these was in 1907, when it was agreed that illuminations, military concerts and firework displays would be organised on two evenings, by a Mr S. Cooper, and that the park would be closed for this purpose on the two days, not earlier than 1pm.[1] These "illuminated fetes" were held on June 6th and 8th June.[2] The Council's share of the takings amounted to £160 when expenses had been deducted, and this sum was donated to four charitable organisations.[3]

The following year the Council made arrangements with Messrs T. C. Brock & Co. to hold three fetes in the park, one half day each in June, July and August 1908, to include illumination of the grounds, a fireworks display and a military band..[4] Takings from these events totalled £395-0s-6d, 25% of which was the Council's share, and after deduction of expenses, £59-7s-11d was distributed to charitable organisations.[5] Similar arrangements were made for 1909, with Newport Concert Direction providing three fetes in June, July and August, and the Council receiving 25% of the admission money.[6] The Council again distributed its profit (£24-17s-1d) from these events to local charities.[7] The Newport Concert Direction Agency were contracted again in 1910 on similar terms to give two fetes during the summer.[8]

In 1911 the Council was unable to agree terms with any contractor to hold fetes as in previous years and it was decided that no such entertainments be provided.[9] Subsequently the Newport and Monmouthshire Hospital Workmen's Fund was given permission to hold a fete in the park on Saturday August 12th 1911 subject to 25% of the nett proceeds being handed over to the Corporation for distribution amongst charities.[10]

In February 1924 the Parks Committee received a letter from Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd offering to give a demonstration of "apparatus specially adapted for outdoor wireless demonstrations in the public parks". The Committee asked the company to arrange a demonstration in Belle Vue Park.[11] Subsequently in May Marconiphone wrote offering a demonstration of entirely new equipment suitable for use on bandstands in the open air and the offer was accepted.[12] In July the Parks Committee agreed to purchase a wireless receiver with the necessary equipment at a price of about £130. The Committee also agreed to accept the offer of Mr W. J. Webb to operate the wireless set free of cost, and the Parks Superintendent was to select one of the Parks employees for tuition in operating the set.[13] In the meeting of the 25th July the Committee heard that the equipment had been installed.[14]

At the end of the 1924 season it was reported that the wireless receiving set had been operational from July 7th to September 30th inclusive and that the concerts given had been well appreciated. It was also stated that this wireless set was the first to be installed in a public park in Great Britain.[15] At the beginning of the 1925 season the Marconiphone Company demonstrated new equipment which the Parks Committee decided to purchase, the company agreeing to take back the existing set in part exchange.[16] "The new equipment was stated to be the very best of its kind for fulness of tone, remarkable clarity and production in reproduction of the natural speech and music and the strength would be audible to perfection within half to three-quarters of a mile."[17] In May 1925 the Committee agreed to purchase a motor generator from the Electricity and Tramways Department, to be installed in the park, to charge the batteries for the wireless set.[18]

Mr G. N. Dowdall (who also provided the refreshments service at Beechwood Park) was appointed in May 1927 to operate the wireless sets in Beechwood, Belle Vue and Shaftesbury Parks during the year ending 31st March 1928, for the sum of £75 inclusive of tram fares. It was also decided that copies of the Radio Times be purchased weekly for each of the three parks.[19] In April 1928 the Parks Committee agreed to contract the Newport Electric Company Ltd. to operate the wireless receiving sets in Beechwood, Belle Vue and Shaftesbury Parks for the period May to August inclusive.[20]

In January 1933 the Parks Committee decided that the use of the wireless receiving sets at Belle Vue, Beechwood and Shaftesbury Parks should be discontinued and it was agreed to dispose of these sets.[21]

From 1942 additional entertainments were organised at the request of the Welsh Board of Health, for workers taking holidays in their home towns.[22] As part of the Summer Holidays for Workers scheme bands were engaged for the summer months to play dance music, and a space for dancing was provided on the terrace around the bandstand.[23] In 1943 it was decided to use gramophone records as well as live bands, members of the Parks Committee having visited Roath Park in Cardiff to see the "mechanical apparatus" used there for the provision of music. The Parks Superintendent was instructed to place an order with the General Electric Co. Ltd. for the apparatus to play gramophone records. It was proposed to install this equipment in the pavilion at Belle Vue Park and in Beechwood House. The Committee allocated £400 for the equipment and £75 to engage bands to play in the parks.[24]

In 1945 the holidays at home scheme was replaced by a programme of summer entertainments which included concert parties, brass bands and punch and Judy shows.[25] Dancing in the parks continued after the war, with arrangements for the 1946 season similar to 1945.[26] For children there was dancing every Monday evening with an admission charge of 3d, and for adults every Thursday and Saturday evenings with an admission charge of 6d.[27]

For the 1948 season it was decided as an experiment to hire a live dance band to provide music for dancing on an evening chosen by the Parks Superintendent and on a second evening at the discretion of the Parks Committee Chairman and the Superintendent.[28]

In 1949, in association with five other local authorities, it was decided to engage a "first class" band (the Black Dyke Band) for the August holiday week, allocated to Newport for two performances on Sunday 31st July 1949. The Highland Light Infantry Band was engaged for Whit Week, and was allocated to Newport for Sunday 5th June 1949, to play in Belle Vue Park. Recorded music was also played in the park during the 1949 summer season on four evenings in the week.[29] The Parks Committee decided to participate again with other local authorities to engage bands for the Whit and August holiday weeks in 1950.[30] A full entertainments programme for the parks for the 1950 season was approved in April, to include engagement of bands, concert parties and children's entertainers and recorded music.[31] Summer enterainments for children were still being provided in the 1960s.[32] It was reported that 4,650 children and 1,560 adults attended the children's entertainment in the parks during August 1965.[33] This continued into the 1970s. Having heard that 2,280 children and 946 adults attended children's entertainment in the parks in August 1970, the Leisure Services Committee agreed that £150 be allocated for the engagement of children's entertainers during August 1971.[34] By the end of the 1970s conventional children's entertainments held in the parks were being replaced by summer holiday play schemes and adventure playgrounds.[35] For 1981 an entertainment programme was approved, including concerts, band concerts, children's entertainment and events at Tredegar House Counntry Park and John Frost Square.[36]

Sources of Information

  1. Newport County Borough Council Parks Sub-Committee 22nd March 1907
  2. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 13th May 1907
  3. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 24th June 1907
  4. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 10th April 1908
  5. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 18th September 1908
  6. Newport County Borough Council Parks (Music) Sub-Committee 30th April 1909
  7. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Markets Committee 17th September 1909
  8. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries Sub-Committee 9th March 1910
  9. Newport County Borough Council Parks (Amusements etc.) Sub-Committee 9th May 1911
  10. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Markets Committee 16th June 1911 & 8th August 1911
  11. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 22nd February 1924
  12. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 23rd May 1924
  13. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 1st July 1924
  14. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 25th July 1924
  15. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 24th October 1924
  16. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 30th April 1925
  17. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 27th March 1925
  18. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 25th May 1925
  19. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 27th May 1927
  20. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 27th April 1928
  21. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 20th January 1933
  22. Newport County Borough Council Parks (Music) Sub-Committee 13th May 1942
  23. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 19th June 1942 & 17th July 1942
  24. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 15th January & 19th February 1943
  25. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 16th March 1945 & Parks (Entertainments) Sub-Committee 28th March 1945
  26. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 15th March 1946
  27. Newport County Borough Council Parks (Entertainments) Sub-Committee 9th May 1946
  28. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries (Provision of entertainment in parks) Sub-Committee 20th May 1948
  29. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 19th November 1948 & (Provision of Entertainment in Parks) Sub-Committee 5th January 1949 & 31st March 1949
  30. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th July 1949 & 16th December 1949
  31. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 21st April 1950
  32. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 21st October 1960
  33. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 15th October 1965
  34. Newport County Borough Council Amenity and Leisure Services Committee 3rd September 1970
  35. Newport Borough Council Leisure Services Committee 2nd May 1978 & 5th February 1980
  36. Newport Borough Council Leisure Services Committee 5th May 1981