Pantomime Badges

A PANTOMIME TRADITION? by Frank Setchfield

The Badge Collectors Circle - It is eight years since I published a booklet on Pantomime button badges-entitled 'British Pantomime Button Badges' it delved into that great tradition that is Panto. However the tradition of selling promotional badges was and is a relatively recent one. Apart from a few scarce examples badges only became commonplace at Pantos from the mid 70s onwards. This 'tradition' reached its zenith in the late 80s when almost every production was using them. The fashion for a button badge in the last five years from 1997 has diminished -not just at pantomimes but generally and so they are thinner on the ground. I recently discovered an excellent website on pantomime - and whilst surfing discovered perhaps the oldest panto button of all-MONA VIVIAN was a panto star at a very tender age and she was known as Wee Mona-this was the turn of the century and as Mona matured she continued to perform. It is possible that the badge was not from a pantomime and probably from a Hippodrome Revue in London. Mona was a mystery to most theatre historians but the internet has helped piece together her life and it is believed she died in the early 60s having married a wealthy Leeds man who was the founder of the football club (I'm not sure yet whether this was the Rugby or Soccer club). Apart from Mona my earliest Panto badges are all from one theatre - Her Majesty's Theatre Carlisle - these date from the mid fifties and are superb examples -It would appear that Carlisle had created its own tradition as no other theatres seem to have issued badges on a regular basis. Indeed the 1960s period is also quite barren - examples of a star using the idea appeared in the early 70s with Ronnie Corbett. Ronnie played Buttons in a production that clearly moved round each year and as it moved so the name on the badge altered-three examples are known. The notion of a 'standard' design also became common practise for all pantomimes and in the late 70s through to the 90s several series were issued at various theatres - so for example Aladdin at Nottingham Playhouse would have the same Aladdin badge as Aladdin at the Queens theatre - Examples appear where the name of the theatre has been applied on the standard design - these examples are good to get-although rarely dated. Other issues that are always nice to get include those with an image of the star performer-stars such as Les Dawson , Bernie Clifton , Norman Wisdom , Ken Dodd , Richard O'Sullivan and Benny from Crossroads! There is no massive monetary value to these badges they are of great interest to theatre historians. You can check out the Badge Collectors Circle on

This page was last updated 19th November 2002

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