Tuesday, 17 December marked one of the most talked-about nights in recent darts history. Fallon Sherrock became the first woman to beat a man at the PDC World Darts Championship, with a 3-2 victory in the first round over the gracious Ted Evetts. Her every dart was cheered to the rafters by the raucous 3,000 crowd and the response in the aftermath has seen her become a national celebrity. Fallon’s achievements have sent shockwaves around sport and the country as a whole. She also joins an ever growing list of incredible women to shape the history of Ally Pally.
The Sports Star: Fallon Sherrock writes her name into the history books. (Photo credit: Chris Dean/PDC)
The Rock Star: For four nights in 2015 Florence and The Machine took over Alexandra Palace. It was a spectacular run of sold-out performances that set the record for the most consecutive concerts by an artist since the building was reopened. Nights that have remained in the memory ever since.
The Designer: Simone Rocha blew away the world of fashion during the 2019 London Fashion Week. She became the first designer to hold a fashion show in Alexandra Palace’s Theatre, receiving rave reviews and wowing an audience including Anna Wintour and Alexa Chung, among others.
The Daredevil: The high-flying, and descending, Dolly Shepherd got her start as a waitress at Ally Pally. While working at the Palace she overheard two men bemoan their lack of an assistant for a trick shot and immediately volunteered. Dolly then went on to risk life and limb in the name of entertainment. She performed several of her death-defying acts at Ally Pally where she would ascend thousands of feet into the air in a hot air balloon and free fall down before deploying a parachute. A thrill-seeker throughout her life, she completed her final jump in her 90s.
The Stage and Screen Icon: A star of music hall and cinema, Dame Gracie Fields had been treading the boards since her debut in 1910. In 1922 her husband took over the lease of the theatre at Ally Pally in order for her to rehearse shows ahead of a West End transfer or tours. Fields went on to become one of the highest-grossing movie stars of the ’30s and was made a Dame in 1979.
The Voices That Launched Television: On the 2nd November 1936 Adele Dixon became the first woman to perform on British television, performing the specially-commissioned song “Television” – an ode to this wondrous new technology. While Adele featured in the first broadcast, it was dance-band singer Helen McKay who performed on the test broadcast to the RadiOlympia Exhibition on the 26th August 1936. During the transmission she performed “Here’s Looking at You”.
The Premier Announcers: The early days of television were fairly disorderly with engineers and producers getting to grips with the new technology. However, on air was a different story with Elizabeth Cowell and Jasmine Bligh’s skilful presenting making it look serene. Elizabeth and Jasmine were the BBC’s first continuity announcers. Picked from over 600 applicants, the pair steered the BBC ship – a reassuring and steady presence for many years.
The Innovator: Many stars of television graced the studios at Ally Pally but it was a producer, Grace Wyndham Goldie, who left one of the biggest impressions on how we consume one of the most important events in the political calendar. During the 1950 General Election, the first that could be covered by television, the BBC did no reporting for fear of breaching Representation of the People Act 1948. However, Grace persuaded the Corporation to transmit an election night programme reporting only the results. A pioneering moment in British TV history that set the tone for how we watch elections to this day.
The Legend: One of the most popular and best-selling artists of all time, the one and only Madonna selected Ally Pally’s Theatre to celebrate the launch of her 2019 album MADAME X. This brought another iconic chapter to the newly restored theatre and for a brief moment made the People’s Palace once again one of the centres of the world of entertainment.
Alexandra Palace is a charity, run for the benefit of everyone. Our Park, Palace and spectacular events have been enriching lives since 1863, but the coronavirus pandemic has hit us hard. To be blunt, we are looking at a £1m shortfall this year and the same again next year. We know this time has been hard on many people but, if you can afford it, your support will help us get through this crisis.