The Harpenden and Wheathampstead District Scouts are very lucky to have many active Scout Groups and Explorer Units. That number has been growing over the last few years and, at the time of writing, we have 10 Scout Groups and 5 Explorer Units. Many of the Groups have more than one Cub Pack or Scout Troop. The down side of this is we have a huge pool of talent eager to join the Cast of one of the UK's, if not the worlds, top Scout Gang Shows. This would explain why every year since 2006/7 the cast applications have been over subscribed. Sometimes by as much as 50-60%
The Public Hall in Harpenden is not blessed with huge space either on stage nor dressing areas so there is a limit of 154 cast members over the 3 Scout sections that take part. There is a limit on numbers in the audience as the Eric Morecambe Theatre, within Harpenden Public Halls can only safely accommodate around 370 people. Some have said that this does mean that the show has a "family" feel. Until we have a roll over Euro millions winner willing to rebuild the hall we will enjoy ourselves as we are. The audience often includes people from far and wide, with members from HQ and other Gang Shows some travelling from both the ends of the country to enjoy the show. Brave people indeed, as there is always meteorological excitement to be had in the first week of January when our Show takes place! The national distance record currently jointly held by Glasgow and Edinburgh Gang Shows at around 380 miles. The international record being held by Brisbane Gang Show at around 10300 miles!! Gang show or not, Scout Ass. or not, family of cast or not you will always be made most welcome to join us wherever you are from. You will be always greeted by our friendly Front of House team and Explorers at the doors and shown to your seats.
Since our first show in 1949 there has never been an audition to be a cast member in the show and there is a very strong feeling that this should remain. If Scouting young people want to be in the show then they should have the opportunity. Once you have been accepted into the Gang, there is then the opportunity to audition for various singing, dancing and speaking roles. There is often a headache task for the Creative Team to cast the "Front Row" which is 8 of each girls and boys from the Explorer Scout units.
With so many young people eager to take part this means that, since 1994, we have not had anyone on stage over the age of 18. The exception being our 50th and 60th shows where we were able to feature several members of the original 1949 Gang. Our Crew have come a long way since those early days too and feature a number of ex Cast members, some have children in the cast. The 1949 show had around a dozen enthusiastic adults and today we have 120+ that help to put on what has been described by a UK Scout Association member as a "very professional, amateur show". We are rather proud of that comment.
Although there are other shows that claim to be the oldest, Glasgow started in 1936 for example, we can say and can prove that the Harpenden Gang Show has had a continuous run every year since 1949. Even a severed electricity cable in 1974 didn't stop the show. Some parents drove their cars onto the steps of the Public Hall and lit the stage with headlights.