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Optimists of 1935

Billy Scarrow's Optimists of 1935, RedcarThis season's line up of the Optimists was as follows: Billy Scarrow, Babs Ritchie, Lena Calvert, Vera Devlin, Mary Ritchie, George Potter (pianist). They performed three shows per day at 11am, 3pm and 7pm. This season was notable for the clash between Billy Scarrow and Redcar Council over the erection of wooden palings designed to protect the audience from blowing sand.

The issue came to a head on Friday June 28th, and was reported by the Cleveland Standard on July 6th. In the same edition was a letter to the editor written by some memebers of the troupe.

Cleveland Standard Jul 1935

Redcar Council - extract from minutes of the 28th June 1935

The Town Clerk read correspondence he had had with solicitors of the tenant of the pierrot site on the sands, with reference to the hoarding the tenant had, without permission, used to enclose the sands between his site and the promenade. After discussion it was resolved
(a) that the tenant be asked to remove the hoarding forthwith, and that in default the Borough Engineer be instructed to remove the same;
(b) that the Promenade Inspectors be instructed to prevent obstruction on the Promenade opposite the pierrot site.

Our Views - Cleveland Standard Jul 6th 1935: Redcar’s Front and Public Rights

An incident last weekend on the Redcar Promenade has brought to head a matter of principle which should be thrashed out. At the opening of the season it was noticed that a space between the promenade and the staging erected for the use of the “Optimists” had been enclosed with a substantial wooden paling. The sticklers for public rights were at first a little astonished at this apparent encroachment but assumed that as the company were leasing their pitch from the Corporation they had erected the enclosure with the full consent of the Sands and Entertainments committee. As will be seen from an article published on another page, Mr. Billy Scarrow admits that he put up the paling without the formal permission of the Corporation. He also adds that there is a free right of way through the enclosure, and it is possibly true that no attempt has been made to prevent the public from occupying it whenever they have felt inclined. That, however, is not an adequate excuse for the ignoring of the public rights in the matter.

Letter to Editor Alfred E. Bentley 1935The Corporation, as trustee of the public in regard to the sands and promenade, has two obvious duties to perform in regard to them – one is to see that the public have full access to all parts and the other is to see that all concessionaires have equal treatment and comply with the conditions of their leases. If Mr. Scarrow put up a paling on the sands without the formal sanction of the Corporation authorities it was obviously the business of the appropriate officials to have requested Mr. Scarrow to remove the obstruction until such sanction had been obtained. So far as we know this had not been done up to last weekend although a number of prominent residents were nonplussed at the lack of municipal action in the matter. The next stage developed when the uniformed officials, whose business it is to patrol the promenade were mysteriously instructed to take action to move on the crowds that had collected in front of the “Optimists” enclosure. This order followed on a meeting of the Sands and Entertainments Committee held on Friday last, and it is possible that the orders were issued as a result of some decision taken at the meeting. Although there is no bye-law against the congregating of people on the promenade, according to the mayor, there does appear to be a bye-law against the collecting of money in the streets without the sanction of the council. The effect of Mr. Scarrow’s enclosure was that people, who might conceivably have congregated on the sands, congested the pavement on the promenade and the move on order naturally affected the takings of the company. The bye-law regarding promenade collections has been allowed to lapse in practice.

Letter to Editor, Billy Scarrow 1935It appears that both Mr. Scarrow and the Corporation officials concerned are to blame. It was clearly the duty of Mr. Scarrow to obtain Corporation consent to the erection of such a structure as a paling on the sands which are under the control of the Corporation. The concession presumably does not give the concessionaire any right of exclusive use of the land in front of the booth; otherwise all sorts of developments might rapidly occur along the beach without the public having any say in the matter. The public, not wise in these matters, would easily be misled into supposing that the enclosure was in some way private property, at any rate for the season. This would not only interfere with the free use of the sands at that point but would cause jealousy on the part of other concessionaires who had not occasion to enclose their bits of sand. What powers the Corporation has to grant the privilege to a concessionaire of enclosing his auditorium we do not know, but these powers are presumably governed by the deed transferring the land to the Corporation. As for the tactics of the committee concerned it is difficult to understand their attitude. They should have requested Mr. Scarrow at once to conform to the usual practice in these matters or to have indemnified him while the matter was being adjusted on regular lines. If they are responsible for the move on order, which was so clumsily put into execution on Friday night, they have acted in a manner calculated to set everybody’s back up. Visitors would be incensed at their being prevented from enjoying themselves in a harmless manner; residents would be irritated by action which interfered with their liberty to stand where they liked on their own promenade; the entertainers, who are expected to pay the rent for their concession to the Corporation, would be justly aggrieved at having their means of livelihood interfered with; and finally the patrol men would find their task so unpleasant that they might be forced to resign.

There is one other aspect of the matter. The treatment meted out to the Optimists was invidious. No other entertainment has been subjected to such action, and crowds are allowed to collect along the promenade in front of the ventriloquist, the Punch and Judy show, and the Sunshine Corner without let or hindrance. The situation seems to have been mishandled and it is to be hoped, for the reputation of Redcar, that the matter will be speedily put right.

Billy Scarrow's Optimists 1935 Benefit Night