AFTER being empty for more than 20 years, Stockton’s Globe Theatre is to reopen next year after a £28m restoration with Paloma Faith raising the curtain on a new era of big names. This extraordinary art deco building, once the biggest provincial theatre in the country, has been at the forefront of practically every 20th Century entertainment craze, attracting the biggest stars of the generation, and is now looking to find a new audience in the 21st Century.


THE first Globe was Teesside’s first purpose-built cinema, holding 500 people. It was nicknamed the “Pig and Chicken”, possibly because its owners were butchers Charles and Alfred Lewis.


SUCH was the success of the Globe that it was demolished and rebuilt bigger – it opened in 1926 and had 1,200 seats. It was equipped to show Stockton’s first talkies.


THE Hippodrome variety theatre in Dovecote Street burned down and was rebuilt as a cinema. The Lewis brothers decided that there were too many cinema seats in Stockton and so, at the height of the silver screen craze, took the extraordinary step to demolish the Globe and rebuild it as Britain’s biggest provincial theatre.

1935, Dec 16

CONSTRUCTION took just eight months, even though 10,000 tons of soil and rock had to be excavated to create room for the huge new theatre.

It was designed by Percy Lindsay Browne, a specialist cinema architect from Newcastle who studied cinema design in the US. His company built 120 cinemas in 20 years at the height of the craze, including The New Westgate Cinema in Newcastle, which is now the O2 Academy, and the Regal Cinema in Northgate, Darlington – it is now the Odeon.

The new Globe was a classic art deco entertainment palace. "Modern plaques and figures decorate the front and provide a nice theatrical atmosphere while the frontal windows, in the green and gold colour scheme of the theatre, give a striking effect, " said The Northern Echo on opening day.

The paper was particularly taken by the "new departure" in mirrors. "Ultra-modern in style, the mirrors depict Pierrot, Pierrette, Harlequin and Columbine, " said the Echo. "The side panels of deep green glass are a definite innovation which add considerable charm, and the general effect is strikingly artistic."

Top of the bill on the opening night was US vaudeville comedian Will Mahoney, who appeared with the high-kicking, long-legged Tiller Girls dancers, the very popular harmonica player Larry Adler and a crooner called Eric Hayes.

Tickets for the 2,372 seats were reasonably priced, from sixpence to two shillings, and the Echo said: "It remains now for the people of the district to support the venture as it deserves."

They didn’t. The Lewis brothers’ idea for a variety theatre was two decades behind the times. Their £75,000 gamble failed, and the Globe closed within a year.

1937, April 5

THE Globe reopened as an ABC - an Associated British Cinema, a fully fledged cinema. But the cinema craze was also nearing the end of its run.


AS television took off and reduced the cinema audience, the Globe proprietors spotted the emergence of a new trend.

It was a kind of variety, often anchored around a comedian compere but featuring popular singers like Al Martino and Harry Secombe in 1954.

As the decade wore on, the acts appealed to the new “teen-agers”. In April 1957, Tommy Steele brought pandemonium to the High Street, as today’s front cover shows, when he appeared just a couple of months after his first hit, Singing the Blues, had topped the charts.

On March 5, 1958, just a fortnight after jetting in from the US and with his singles Oh Boy and Peggy Sue riding high in the charts, Buddy Holly and the Crickets appeared at the Globe, compered by Des O’Connor. Holly, who would be killed in a plane crash 11 months later, is regarded as the world’s first rock n roll star.

In 1958, skiffle star Lonnie Donegan appeared in panto. Most of the acts stayed in digs or in the Vane Arms in the High Street, but it is said that Donegan parked his caravan around the back of the venue and slept there.

In 1959, Cliff Richard appeared in the Babes in the Wood panto, backed by the Shadows. It was probably during this run that one of the Shadows, Jet Harris, had a minor car crash, and, as a response, in the orchestra pit, the group wrote a tune called The Stars Fell on Stockton which became the b-side of their 1962 No 1, Wonderful Land.


IT is no exaggeration to say that every star played the Globe: the Everly Brothers, Chubby Checker, The Searchers, Helen Shapiro, the Kinks, the Hollies, the Animals, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Marianne Faithfull… Cliff Richard appeared up to nine times, with the Shadows writing Summer Holiday in the theatre on one occasion.

Most famously, November 22, 1963, was the night that JFK was assassinated in Dallas and the night the Beatles played the Globe.

Not to be outdone, the Rolling Stones played the Globe on three occasions, and on October 8, 1965, Mick Jagger was cut above the eye by a coin whizzed at the stage by an over-enthusiastic fan. He sang on, with the handkerchief pressed to his face getting redder and redder…

The Northern Echo, under editor Sir Harold Evans, spotted the teenage trend early and created a weekly pull-out for the pop pickers. Photographer Ian Wright attended the Globe on a regular basis and was often allowed back stage for a series of remarkable pictures. He was there the night Jagger was cut, and Evans put the photo of the bleeding star on the front page under the inspired headline, “Blood from a Stone”.

The Beat craze, though, passed, and in the mid-1960s, ABC wanted to demolish the Globe and replace it with a shopping centre and cocktail bar. Stockton MP Bill Rodgers called it vandalism, and the Globe escaped.

Early 1970s

ANOTHER golden age of live music: Marc Bolan, Alvin Stardust, Mud, David Essex and the Bay City Rollers all played at the Globe, the last band being Status Quo in December 1974. After showing a last film, The Sting, and welcoming the London Philharmonic Orchestra in early 1975, the Globe closed.


THE latest fad in entertainment was bingo, and so the Globe became a Mecca, seating at least 1,000 housey housey players at a time.


MECCA moved to Chandler’s Wharf, and the Globe fell empty.

2020, Sept 25

OVER the last 23 years, countless plans have been put forward to restore it, demolish it or convert it. None came off, until the council, helped the National Lottery Heritage Fund, devised a restoration scheme for the Grade II listed building. It has been far from smooth and the growing cost in a time of austerity has made it controversial, but with yesterday’s announcement that Paloma Faith is to bring the music back, the Globe stands on the brink of a new era in its crazy history.