‘Xmas at the Libraries’

This week Assistant Librarian Manager of Local and Family History, Sally Hughes, takes a look back at festive performances gone by in Leeds Libraries.


‘Children who attend the “Story half-hours” in the Leeds Public Libraries are preparing for extra jolly programmes…’

During the mid to late 1920s Leeds Libraries saw a huge increase in services provided for children. This included not only books, storytimes and fun activities but also seasonal extravaganzas in the form of Christmas plays and pantomimes.


During the 1930s especially these performances gained significant attention of the local papers and have been preserved in our Leeds Public Libraries collection of newspaper cuttings. In the Yorkshire Evening post, 13th December 1932 it is announced that,

‘The Junior Libraries of Leeds, in accordance with their policy of encouraging the youngsters to appreciate the amenities they offer, have organised a series of dramatic entertainments to take place at various branches in the course of the coming fortnight’

There follows several years of reports on the youth of Leeds’ eager involvement in theatrical performances; most are re-tellings of classic tales and some variety shows including one at Compton Road in December 1933,

‘Recitations were given by Audrey Hill and Kathleen Barker. Betty Collins who is only eight years old entertained with some pleasing speciality dances, and Winnie Mills sang a number of Xmas carols. The girls of Osmondthorpe School gave a play “Let’s Pretend” and the boys of the same school contributed the first part of Treasure Island” ‘

Whilst this all sounds very exciting, the articles are often paired with photographs of the young performers… dancingtoad hall

little womenIt would seem that attendance at these Christmas shows was much sought after, exemplified in an article from the Leeds Guardian December 16th 1932 when,

‘More than 150 children were turned away from Armley Juvenile Library on Monday evening when children of Armley Park Council School performed a play, “The Man from the Moon,” written and produced by Miss Ivy Sanders, a member of Armley Library staff.’

man in the moon

Infamous Leeds Children’s Librarian Miss Hummerston pioneered children’s story half-hours after her appointment in the role in 1927 and headed the writing and ‘directing’ of children’s performances all year round, and clearly convinced some of her colleagues to do the same (see Miss Sanders named above). This included “Mary the Maid of the Inn” at Holbeck Library written and produced by Library staff members Miss Hammerston and Miss D Clarke and “Curly Locks” by Miss M Sheard at York Road Library. The dedication and pride of the Library staff involved is exemplary with one Library Assistant making props and a stage for a show in his own workshop and Librarians including Burley Library’s Miss E.D.Wright encouraging children to make their own costumes with the production’s expenses ‘borne by the library staff, admission being free.’

So, it seems a wholesome fun-filled festive period was had by all in Leeds Libraries, during the 1930s especially! As North Leeds News stated in December 1933,

‘Many were the regrets when the programme came to a conclusion, and no doubt many children wished Christmas came more often.’

xmas carol


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers!

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