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    Connectivity: Cockney-styled artistes of late 19th and early 20th century music hall and Britain’s inner urban audiences

    Barrett, David Charles (2023) Connectivity: Cockney-styled artistes of late 19th and early 20th century music hall and Britain’s inner urban audiences. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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    Abstract

    By the last decade of the nineteenth century and continuing into the first of the twentieth, music hall in Britain had become a commodified, national entertainment medium. Whilst still an eclectic mix of entertainment offering, one genre of stage performance, which included the leading national artistes of the day, were those defined in this study as cockney-styled entertainers. Although unique performers in their own way, each had an on-stage act that was focussed upon their particular presentation through song, common individual characters, and depictions of the everyday experiences of the population that lived and worked in Cockney London. Their performance style and the lyrics contained in their most successful songs were strongly London-centric, referenced and delivered in a cockney vernacular. Superficially, this would seem to be counter-intuitive and paradoxical. How could inner urban audiences beyond the metropolis positively relate to the cockney-styled entertainers’ London-referenced stage presentation and cockney vernacular delivery when they would likely have little or no direct experience or familiarity with the capital? This study directly addresses this apparent paradox, by positing a new theory in respect of the performer/audience relationship that these entertainers shared with inner urban audiences nationally, but especially those within the inner urban communities of Britain’s largest cities. This relationship, defined as ‘connectivity’, meant that the leading cockney-styled artistes were able to embark on successful regular regional tours of music halls utilising their existing style of London-centric performance content delivered in a cockney vernacular without the need for any local modification. However, this special performer/audience connectivity was only made possible by the contingent synergy of four key enabling factors that were present around the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century which are identified and analysed in this thesis. Through the promotion of this theory of connectivity and the analysis of its enabling factors, this study presents a unique addition to the historiography of late Victorian and early Edwardian music hall.

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