2023 marks 50 years since the Hornsby Gang Show came into being. It commenced as a local concert instigated by Bob MacDonald, 1st Hornsby Scout Leader to raise funds to take his troop to the 10th Australian Jamboree. It was a small affair with an all-male cast, so the boys undertook the girl’s parts and the audience was in hysterics. The demand was so great that a second performance was required and the Woodhouse Jamboree was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
With the success of this fledgling concert, Hornsby District leaders decided to establish the Hornsby Showtime, later to become Hornsby Gang Show, which was built around the Scout Gang Show concept created by Scout and Variety Show producer, Ralph Reader in London in 1932 when he was asked by Lord Baden-Powell to stage a similar fund-raising concert. Not only did he achieve his £130 target but the show grew, playing at various theatres around London until 1974, spawning famous names such as Sir Harry Secombe, Sir Richard Attenborough, Peter Sellers, Darryl Stewart, Max Bygraves, Spike Milligan, Norrie Paramour, Dick Emery, Tony Hancock. Ralph Reader was a consummate performer in his own right, playing in Vaudeville Shows in America and leading entertainment troops as the RAF shows during WW11. It was not long before scout concerts throughout the UK, Ireland, Canada and later Australia and New Zealand became known as The Gang Show. Reader was dedicated to Scouts, youth and the performing arts – a formidable trio. Ralph Reader has left a legacy of hundreds of songs and sketches which are readily available for use.
In its wisdom, the Australian shows combined with Girl Guides and the quality and entertainment was different but outstanding. The Hornsby shows have played at various venues under the direction of many Producers throughout its 50 years and say that some 3000 people have either been in the cast or involved with the shows. It has remained true to the Variety Show concept and while sometimes revisiting much loved material, remains fresh every year. The show has only missed 4 performances over its 50 years either due to lack of a venue or Covid-19. They are still searching for a place to call home.
This year, local writer Penny Becchio is compiling a book as a memoire of the 50 years and will include reflections by past members and many photos. With seed money provided by Hornsby Lions, the project is well underway and the planned launch is 17th June, when the Gang will hold a celebratory dinner at Hornsby RSL. For more information visit: www.gangshow.com