|Main Performers||Phyllis Bedells,|
Mr J P Wetenhall
|Secondary Performers||Joan Barry,|
Richard Bird - judges
|Orchestra or Band||Percy Chandler and His Orchestra|
|Set List||'The Blue Danube' Strauss (Phyllis Bedells, John Byron),|
'Auld Lang Syne',
National Anthem: 'God Save the King'
|Performance Notes||In the interwar period from 1923-1938 Lady Malcolm's Servants' Ball was a notorious party on London's queer scene. Founded by Lady Jeannie Malcolm. it provided an opportunity for London's domestic servants to have a night of fancy dress, dancing and socialising until the small hours at a reasonable cost.|
Lady Malcolm was incredibly charming and was the only child of Lilly Langtry, the celebrated actress, beauty and mistress of King Edward 7th. The event's popularity grew so that by 1930 it could fill the vast Albert Hall, which could hold up to 10,000 people for a ball. Lady Malcolm specified fancy dress, so that the servants would not feel embarrassed by not being able to buy expensive dresses or suits for the evening and prizes awarded to the best outfits by celebrity guests. People used their fancy dress to comment on the conditions of their employment by dressing up as cleaning products, alarm clocks, and even as the aristocrats they served.
The vastness of the Hall, the anonymity of the huge crowd and the fancy dress also gave an opportunity for London's LGBTQ+ working classes to cross-dress, drag-up, gender-bend, and make queer contact in plain sight - whilst simultaneously being lost in the crowd.
In a 1934 Police Observation report held in the National Archives of the ball a Senior Detective Inspector reported, 'young men of the effeminate type in coloured silk blouses and tight-hipped trousers, their faces rouged and powdered, dancing in the most objectionable way' and of, 'disgraceful scenes of degenerate boys and men in female attire parading about.'
In 1935, the organisers actually took the step of issuing a warning on the ticket, declaring that 'No Man Impersonating a Woman and no person unsuitably attired will be admitted'. On entry, men's costumes had to be approved by a "Board of Scrutineers." Consisting of two-ex CID officers. Whatever they tried, however, the organizers couldn't keep the working class queer community out or adequately contain their visibility.
London's Police Commissioner stated that it was the chance to dress up, drink and dance at this type of ball that the queens found so irresistible, deducing that 'There is no doubt whatsoever that these dances lend themselves to a certain number of undesirable people being present.'
In 1937, after seven arrests, a police Inspector Holdstruck wrote that, '
although 'Homo-sexualists' generally seem to be attracted to Costume balls, it appeared to me, that this Dance attracts more men of the perverted type than any other held at the Royal Albert Hall.'
By the last ball held in 1938 before WW2, two sergeants and 20 constables 'preserved order' with one constable reporting that 'There were an extraordinary number of undesireable men at this ball who were unmistakably of the Homo-sexual types.'
|Related Archival Material||Programme (RAHE/1/1933/54)|