Gang Show promises virtual performances despite cancellation due to pandemic

The St Albans Gang Show at The Alban Arena in St Albans

The St Albans Gang Show at The Alban Arena in St Albans - Credit: Supplied by The Alban Arena

It's probably the most cheerful thing about February.

Since its first time round back in 1980, thousands of young people have been involved in the annual St Albans Gang Show, but this year's performances have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Featuring young people aged 11 to 25 from the St Albans District Scouting and the Guiding St Albans Division, the annual variety show has been entertaining audiences at the Alban Arena for over 40 years.

St Albans Gang Show

St Albans Gang Show - Credit: Archant

The show is an evening full of singing, dancing, acting and comedy sketches performed by Scouts and Guides from all over the district. It is usually a sell-out and is rehearsed over many months leading up to the week of performances. 

We spoke to producer Hermione Drew to find out how the pandemic has affected the Gang Show community after the inevitable decision was made to cancel the show that should have run at the Alban Arena in February.

Gang Show 2015

GS 2015. Credit: Rachael Lord - Credit: Rachael Lord

Hermione said: "This is of course heart breaking, but we are also so fortunate that we had not started any planning or rehearsals and so the disappointment was not as great as it was for many other Gang Shows around the UK who had to cancel their show at the last moment when they were due to perform in March/April 2020."

She added that this last year has highlighted prominently how important the people involved - both cast and volunteers - are to each other: "When you suddenly don't see the life-long friends you have made, or been able to be in a room with more than 100 smiling young people singing and dancing their hearts out - you realise how much those things mean."

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And that is what it is all about for the people taking part too. They always talk to the team about the friendships they make, the feeling that they can just be themselves at Gang Show, and the confidence they gain in their talents, she said. 

"We remain a strong group of committed volunteers and cast who are waiting eagerly for a time when it safe to do what we love again for the supportive audiences we have in St Albans. Simple moments of togetherness really do keep you energised and help you feel connected and supported.

The big finale at St Albans Gang Show.

The big finale at St Albans Gang Show. - Credit: Roger Morton

"The feeling of being able to achieve anything together is a really powerful one and every year I feel so lucky to be part of this special team in St Albans. We are still achieving a lot behind the scenes online together - but I can't wait to feel that magic of us all being in the same rehearsal space or the Alban Arena again soon."

Volunteers, cast and parents of cast members have kept in touch via Zoom as much as possible since lockdown began so that everybody could be kept updated as decisions were made about this year's show. 

On stage at the Alban Arena for St Albans Gang Show.

On stage at the Alban Arena for St Albans Gang Show. - Credit: Roger Morton

The decision to cancel Gang Show 2021 was made in August. The team running it discussed all their risks and reasons and considered feedback from other people involved.  

Hermione said: "The team were supportive of the decision to cancel. At that time we were uncertain if we were being over cautious. 

Youngsters taking part in the St Albans Gang Show.

Youngsters taking part in the St Albans Gang Show. - Credit: Roger Morton

"With hindsight it seems obvious we did the right thing cancelling as we would have had no choice." 

The cast from previous shows have been learning dance routines to old Gang Show favourite songs and taken part in online quizzes and silly games. 

St Albans Gang Show has been running for decades.

St Albans Gang Show has been running for decades. - Credit: Roger Morton

Anyone who wanted to be in the 2021 show will be able to audition next year. 

There will be two special broadcasts on Wednesday February 10 and Saturday February 13 at 7.30pm. Check the St Albans Gang Show website for updates.

Hermione explained what to expect: "We plan to do a live stream of our 2020 show for people to enjoy again, on what should have been our opening night for 2021.

"We have also been collecting votes on people's favourite sketches/numbers they have seen St Albans Gang Show perform over the years, and we are piecing the recordings of these together into a virtual screening, with some extra surprises, on what should have been our final night performing at the Alban Arena."