St. David’s, Entertainment and Social Events

St. David’s Priory played an active role in both arranging and encouraging social events for the local Catholic population. In earlier copies of the Records, we can see that local Catholics would enjoy musical evenings, attending religious processions, and the annual St. Patrick’s Ball.[1] As times moved on, events put on by St. David’s itself or the local Catholic Young Men’s Societies would go beyond dances and coffee mornings to such entertainments as talent competitions, or ‘A One-Act Play’ with refreshments.[2] Free Polish soldiers stationed in the town in the immediate aftermath of the war were often provided entertainment, also recorded in this collection.[3]

There was also recognition of a need for children’s entertainment to be arranged. Throughout the collection are references to child-friendly events held in the local school, as well as being admission to compete in fancy-dress competitions.[4]

Also in the collection is a programme of events for the Catholic Young Men’s Societies Conference, which took place in May 1928 in Swansea.[5] Though the event pondered serious questions about the Catholic Church’s role in modern life (such as ‘The Catholic Priest and the Worker’ or ‘The Church’s attitude to Marriage’) there was also time for a bit of fun and games, including a ‘Grand Afternoon Sea Trip to Porthcawl’ – unfortunately, there’s no mention of what the weather was like![6]

However, Church-led entertainment would be challenged by the growth of cinema as the social and cultural focal point of the town, with Swansea too engulfed by the rise of the ‘Picture Palaces’ that emerged from the thirties onwards. The Church was not intrinsically hostile to such entertainment, though the reader may be amused by the church’s reactions to this new form of media, because of the potential advantages and disadvantages it offered to the Catholic Church in the modern world.

For instance, Dom. Gerald Spencer made sure to mention in his church notices of the French film, Monsieur Vincent, a biopic of St. Vincent du Paul (trailer here):

Film poster for 'Monsieur Vincent' - taken from Uni-France Film, http://en.unifrance.org/movie/96/monsieur-vincent.

Film poster for ‘Monsieur Vincent’ – taken from Uni-France Film, http://en.unifrance.org/movie/96/monsieur-vincent.

‘Apart from the reputation the film has won for itself among the best of the year, we as Catholics have promised to see it after the manager of the cinema had obtained to see it at the request of one of our good catholic parishioners. Do not miss this film. It will be showing [at the Town Hill Cinema] from the 14th February 1949’.[7]

Doubtless the film’s Catholic background and sentiment would have been very encouraging to the church hierarchy! This hadn’t been the case when the British gangster film, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, began its run in Swansea cinemas (trailer here). In contrast to the more genteel and uplifting Monsieur Vincent, No Orchids for Miss Blandish featured high levels of violence (for the era) and Dom. Spencer duly noted in his service of 20th June 1948 that he and the Catholic Young Christian Group had been in touch with the Chief Constable of Swansea requesting it be banned from the cinemas as ‘undesirable’.[8]

Film poster for 'No Orchids for Miss Blandish', taken from Movie Poster Database. http://www.movieposterdb.com/poster/48b703f4

Film poster for ‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish’, taken from Movie Poster Database. http://www.movieposterdb.com/poster/48b703f4

On a side note, the gulf in reception between the two films from the Catholic community in Swansea was actually reflected in the film world to an extent – whilst Monsieur Vincent would win an Academy Award for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ in 1949, No Orchids for Miss Blandish has been called ‘The worst British film ever’!

[1] RBA LAC/99/H9 Programme, Corpus Christi Procession, Swansea, 18th June 1933

RBA LAC/99/C4 Church Service Records, 12th November 1874

RBA LAC/99/C22 Church Service Records, 29th September 1946

[2] RBA LAC/99/C22 Church Service Records, 6th October and 13th October 1948.

[3]RBA LAC/99/C22 Church Service Records, 20th October 1948

[4] RBA LAC/99/C4 Church Service Records, 17th November 1874

RBA LAC/99/C22 Church Service Records, 17th November 1948

[5] RBA LAC/99/H7 Brochure and Programme, Catholic Young Men’s Societies Conference, Swansea, May 26th-28th 1928.

[6] RBA LAC/99/H7 Brochure and Programme, Catholic Young Men’s Societies Conference, Swansea, May 26th-28th 1928.

[7]RBA LAC/99/C22 Church Service Records, 12th December 1948.

[8]RBA LAC/99/C22 Church Service Records, 20th June 1948.

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