taking our culture forward

Summerland Remembered in recording project

Mon, 10 Jul 2023

A project recording the memories of people connected to the Summerland Fire 50 years ago has just been released online.

Summerland Remembered’ consists of hours of audio recordings, which collect together the stories of 16 different people, all of whom have telling and important connections to the tragedy. It represents the most extensive ever project to record the memories of the Summerland Fire, and has just been released for free public access online by Culture Vannin.

The project is part of the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the tragedy in which 50 people died in the Douglas entertainment venue on 2 August 1973.

The recordings available on the website are an extensive range of interviews conducted by James Franklin and Dollin Mercer for Culture Vannin. They include conversations with survivors, those bereaved, fire fighters, nurses, police officers, visitors, witnesses, entertainers, employees and more.

The collection shares the personal stories of the very people connected to the tragedy.

These interviews will be available on the Culture Vannin website forever, allowing people in the Isle of Man and beyond the opportunity to hear these voices for generations to come.

James Franklin, Online & Educational Resources Officer at Culture Vannin, says:

“As a Manx person born after 1973, I had never previously been able to fully understand the Summerland Fire. Over the course of the past year and more, working on this project, I have been changed and greatly humbled by the stories which I have had the privilege of recording. I hope that making these interviews available online will bring more people like myself to a better understanding of the event and the effect it had, and continues to have, on the lives of so many.”

All of the interviewees showed great strength and belief in being recorded for the project, and we owe them our thanks for passing on their testimonies of this important and difficult event in Manx history.

The interviews include conversations with Chris Mannion and Lawrie Adam, the entertainers on the main stage when the fire broke out; Les Quayle, one the first fire engine at the scene and the first fire fighter to enter the building; Dudley Butt, the police officer in charge of investigating the fire as a potential crime; Heather Lea, who lost her parents and younger sister in the fire; Maggie Clarke, who was trampled in the rush to escape the building; and Jackie Hallam, a bereaved survivor of the fire who escaped by extraordinary means but who has suffered its effects ever since.

Culture Vannin hopes that the ‘Summerland Remembered’ project will empower us to better remember and understand the tragedy of the fire as we approach the 50th anniversary, and for generations to come.

All of the interviews are available here:

Summerland Remembered