Encore – Show Programme – Jack Cunningham Productions
Click below to read the programme from Jack Cunningham Productions ‘Encore’, a night full of Tops of the Town memories.
For those of a certain age in Ireland, “TOPS OF THE TOWN” or “John Player Tops” may evoke fond memories. This annual variety competition ran from 1962 to 1997 and this was well before the days of “X Factor”. It was a significant part of Irish popular culture.
Starting in Waterford in 1962, “TOPS OF THE TOWN” soon became a nationwide event. With financial support from John Player coverage followed national broadcaster RTE. Local and national finals featured community groups and businesses from across the country showcasing impressive 55-minute shows, with singers, dancers, comedians, and other performers.
Each production had armies of talented people working behind the scenes, from producers, directors, and stagehands to set-builders, writers, costume-makers, lighting technicians, committee members, and fundraisers. Thousands of people were involved in the competition around the country, from big companies to community groups with limited resources.
Challenging but fun
Despite the challenges, “TOPS OF THE TOWN” proved incredibly popular. Reaching the national finals meant months of rehearsals and a chance to perform in front of a live audience for up to six months. The competition was seen as a kind of “GAA for amateur performers,” and even those who were knocked out at the local level didn’t mind.
A Sad Demise…
The last Waterford group to win the competition was Waterford Crystal in the 1994 final. This being produced by the late Bryan Flynn. The Woodville group was their opponent in the final.
Sadly, John Player’s sponsorship ended in 1997 because of a ban on cigarette advertising, marking the end of “TOPS OF THE TOWN.” The last televised final went to Moate that year.