Detail

Title ID 1018Collection ID56
Title[Uncle Mack’s Minstrels]
Date1930 - 1931
CollectionEnid Briggs pt1
Genre/TypeAmateurIndependent AmateurNon-fictionActuality/Factual
ThemeSeaside
KeywordsBeaches Entertainment Performing Arts Seaside Resorts
Location
LocalBroadstairs
RegionalKent
NationalEngland United Kingdom
Credits
ProductionEnid Briggs
CameraEnid Briggs
ParticipantsAlec; Alex; Ally; Barney; Harry; Jack; John; Uncle Mack; (Minstrels)
FormatBlack & White Silent
Duration10 min. 45 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details

Summary

A compilation of several different performances, filmed by local amateur film-maker, Enid Briggs. The film has intertitles throughout.

Description

Blackfaced entertainers perform songs and tap-dance routines on an open-air stage on the sands. The minstrels are named as Alex, Jack, John, Harry, Barney and Uncle Mack. The stage is decorated with posters advertising other performances - one of which is a ‘White Night’, a performance without their black ‘burnt cork’ make-up. Wearing all-in-one clown-style suits and mortarboards, routines are performed by individuals and as a group, accompanied by piano, drum and banjo. The audience are seen watching them, though some of the children are enjoying the performance from under the stage. A ticket-seller makes his way through the audience. Still with their blackened faces but wearing ordinary clothes over their costumes, the troupe act out a sketch - a comedy about a wedding set around an anvil. “The End”.

The following scenes were filmed the previous year, 1930. “Bravo! Uncle Mack!” “Winners of a Weekly Dispatch £10 Prize”. Wide-shot showing Uncle Mack’s Minstrels on stage. The troupe perform a song together; the banjo player at the centre, the others strumming invisible banjos.

A woman leaves her house and walks along the promenade, her dog carrying a wooden sign advertising ‘The Minstrels Benefit - Today at 3’. Another performance follows. The minstrels are listed as Harry, Alec, John, Jack, Ally and Uncle Mack.

Stills

A still of 'Uncle Macks Minstrels' (1930-1931) showing the Minstrels on stage

Contextual information

Uncle Mack’s Minstrels were an integral part of the Broadstairs summer entertainment in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1911 Uncle Mack’s Minstrels were voted the most popular troupe of the British Seaside resorts. Now considered unacceptable as a form of entertainment, black-faced entertainers were a popular act in the 1930s and were often seen at seaside resorts where the additional character of ‘Uncle’ befriended children and encouraged them to take part in singing and dancing competitions. It is thought that film-maker Enid Briggs was a friend of Uncle Mack’s (real name James Henry Summerson); he and his troupe appear in many of her local topical films. Enid Briggs’ films were edited together at a later date (by others), consequently these films now appear out of chronological order.

Uncle Mack features in a number of other Enid Briggs’ films such as Broadstairs Items 1927-1935 (1927 - 1935). Uncle Phil, a performer with Uncle Mack in the late 1930s, also appears in At the Sign of the Ram and Gate (1957).

Related titles

Related resources

Books

Briggs, Enid. *The Ranch - A Paradise for Horses. * n.p.: Frederick Warne & Co, 1946

The book provides an illustrated account of Ms Briggs’ horse and donkey sanctuary in Broadstairs, Kent. A copy is held at Screen Archive South East, kindly donated to the archive by John Williams.

Further Information on File at Screen Archive South East

Research on Enid Briggs carried out at local libraries by Tim Cornish.

Journal Articles

“Uncle Mack, Sultan of the Sands (founder of minstrel troupe).” Bygone Kent 6.12 (December 1996): 735-738

A copy of this article about Uncle Mack and his minstrels is available at the Kent History and Library Centre.
http://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-community/history-and-heritage/kent-history-and-library-centre