Woking has a long tradition of performance and performers, from the Public Hall to the Atalanta to the Ambassadors.
Talent night at The Ritz, 1938
Photograph: Ann Squibb
In 1895 the grand Public Hall was opened, seating 700 people. It presented concerts, plays and other entertainments, as well as lectures and religious services. In 1909 it first showed ‘animated pictures’, on a tiny screen. A number of cinemas soon followed, with the Electric Empire (‘People’s Picture Palace’) in 1910, Central Halls (known locally as ‘the flea pit’) in 1912 and The Palace in 1913. Today, the Ambassadors Theatre Group once again offers performance venues and cinema screens all within the one complex.
The Atalanta, with its famous sprung floor, was at the centre of the town’s music and dance scene in the mid-20th century. The Rolling Stones, for example, played there in 1963. In 1967 Woking man Rick Parfitt became part of the great rock band, Status Quo. About 6 years later the guitarist and singer-songwriter Paul Weller joined up with a number of Woking ex-schoolmates to form The Jam.
Woking Choral Society and Woking Symphony Orchestra both first performed in 1897 and are still going strong. Since 1958 they have been joined by the Epworth Choir, founded by local building contractor Walter Deakin, who became its first conductor.
Katharine talks about dances between the wars
Trevor talks the night Jerry Lewis came to Woking
Joyce talks about getting ready for a night at the Atalanta
Peggy talks about the old cinemas in Woking
Harry talks about his memories of the canal
Mary talks about the National Anthem in the cinemas