Sunday, July 12, 2009

Syncopating Sandy at the New Cross Empire

'Syncopating Sandy' Strickland made his name in the 1950s as an endurance piano player, travelling the country trying to set records for playing the piano without a break. One of the venues he used was the New Cross Empire music hall, situated in Deptford Broadway opposite Addy & Stanhope school (pictured below in 1910).


According to Gramophone (August 1974) 'Sandy Strickland, was a non-stop piano player in the barbaric days of marathon dancers and other bizarre feats of endurance. Strickland would book the New Cross Empire from 9 am on a Monday through to 11 pm on the Saturday, during which time he would play the piano without stopping—no sleep, and being fed at the keyboard. The audience came and went as they pleased, and by Saturday they could be standing in the aisles'.

Linda Neesham recalls: 'the New Cross Empire... was demolished in about 1960 and I think a garage now stands in its place. In about 1959 I saw one of the last, if not the last, act to appear there. He was called Syncopating Sandy and he was trying to set a new endurance record for piano playing. He went on for days and it was free just to wander in and sit and watch him for a while. Screens were pulled round periodically for normal functions to be carried out!'

Strickland apparently died in 1975, 11 years after his last public appearance 'in Hampshire, in 1964, when he played non-stop for 132 hours'.

6 comments:

Adrian said...

More about the theatre here. Can never understand how a Matcham theatre on our doorsteps could have been allowed to be destoyed!

Adrian said...

Sorry, see previous post, here's a link to more about the theatre: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/NewCross.htm

Transpontine said...

Yes it's a shame, especially as it was never replaced with anything more than a car lot.

EDDY said...

WELL REMEMBER GOING TO THE EMPIRE WITH MY MUM AND DAD ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.ALWAYS A BIG QUEUE BUT HAD ENTERTAINMENT OUTSIDE.OFTEN YOU WOULD HAVE SOMEONE PLAYING THE SPOONS AND ANOTHER TEARING UP PAPER TO MAKE PATTERNS.IN THE WINTER THERE WAS THE MAN SELLING HIS HOT POTATOES AT A PENNY EACH.ALSO SOMEONE SELLING HOT CHESTNUTS.WE NEARLY ALWAYS WENT IN THE GODS WHICH WAS THE HIGHEST POINT IN THE THEATRE.lONG WAY FROM STAGE ESPECIALLYU AS I HAD BAD EYESIGHT.IT WAS A SHILLING FOR GROWNUPS AND NINEPENCE FOR US CHILDREN.IT WAS ALWAYS ENJOYABLE.CAN WELL REMEMBER SYNCOPATING SANDY BECAUSE I USED TO WALK PAST EVERY DAY AND THEY MUST HAVE HAD SPEAKERS ON THE OUTSIDE BECAUSE YOU COULD HEAR THE PIANO PLAYING AS YOU WALKED BY. SOMETHING THAT ALWAYS STUCK IN MY MIND AND WAS SO INTERESTED TO READ ABOUT IT.

eddy said...
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eddy said...

REMEMBER WELL NEW X EMPIRE BECAUSE MY MUM AND DAD USED TO TAKE US SOMETIMES ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.ALWAYS HAD A BIG QUEUE BUT THERE WAS ENTERTAINMENT OUTSIDE.SOMEBODY WOULD BE PLAYING THE SPOONS.ANOTHER PERSON MIGHT BE TEARING UP NEWSPAPERS TO MAKE PATTERNS.ALSO SOMEONE SELLING HOT POTATOES FOR A PENNY EACH AND WHEN IT WAS CHESTNUT TIME YOU COULD BUY A BAG OF HOT CHESTNUTS.ALL MADE FOR A NICE EVENING BECAUSE WE HAD NO TELEVISION.MOSTLY WE WENT UP INTO THE GODS BECAUSE IT WAS CHEAPER THERE.NINEPENCE FOR CHILDREN AND SHILLING FOR ADULTS.QUITE A TREAT AFTER THE WAR.SOMETIMES WE WENT DOWNSTAIRS WHICH WAS A BIT MORE EXPENSIVE.DO REMEMBER SEEING JANE OUT OF THE MIRROR THERE.ALSO REMEMBER SYNCOPATING SANDY BECAUSE I USED TO WALK PAST IT EVERY DAY AND YOU COULD HEAR THE PIANO PLAYING.THEY MUST HAVE HAD SPEAKERS RELAYING THE SOUND OUTSIDE.SYNCOPATING SANDY WAS SOMETHING THAT STAYED IN MY MIND AND WAS INTERESTED TO READ ABOUT IT.