The Noel Gay Organisation was founded in 1938, when the composer Noel Gay (born Reginald Armitage, 1898) started a music publishing company to publish his show songs and light music.
In the late 1950s Noel Gay Artists was formed by his son, Richard Armitage (born 1928) in order to supply singers to perform Noel Gay hits.
During the 1960s Noel Gay Artists was a principal agent for a huge number of musical and pop acts including Russ Conway, Peter & Gordon, The Scaffold, Geoff Love, Manuel and His Music of the Mountains, Paul Jones etc. As a music publisher, Noel Gay Music provided a string of hits for many artists including Bernard Cribbins’ Hole In the Ground, Right Said Fred and Gossip Calypso. The company also represented the young Sir David Frost and, amongst many others, John Cleese. In the 1970s the agency represented The King’s Singers, The Swingle Singers, Tony Macaulay (You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book, Don’t Give Up On Us Baby), Jake Thackray and French superstar Claude Francois. Richard’s sons, Charles and Alex Armitage, joined the company in 1972 and 1976 respectively.
In the 1980s, Noel Gay represented amongst others, Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Tilda Swinton, Danny Baker, Peter Skellern, Jan Leeming and Reginald Bosanquet, as well as continuing to look after Sir David Frost, Esther Rantzen, Desmond Wilcox, Sir Richard Stilgoe (Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Starlight Express) and Norman Newell.
In 1985, Richard Armitage and his two sons decided to produce Me And My Girl, a huge hit from 1938, with music by Noel Gay. Me And My Girl ran for eight years at the Adelphi Theatre in London from 1985, starring Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson. In subsequent years it started the theatrical careers of Brian Conley, Gary Wilmot, Karl Howman, Les Dennis, Su Pollard and Jessica Martin. It also ran on Broadway for three years at the Marquis Theatre, starring Robert Lindsay, Jim Dale and Tim Curry. Me And My Girl also played in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, Japan and Hong Kong.
Richard Armitage died in 1986 and subsequently his sons Alex and Charles took over the business. In 1987, Alex and Paul Jackson founded Noel Gay Television which became the first major independent television production company. Bill Cotton joined from the BBC as Chairman in 1988. Amongst many other major productions, Noel Gay was responsible for the worldwide success of Red Dwarf, written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. In the late 1980s and early 1990s under Alex Armitage, the agency looked after, amongst others, Harry Enfield, Chris Barrie, Howard Goodall and Russell Harty. At this time the company also produced High Society (Victoria Palace Theatre), The Entertainer (Shaftesbury), Radio Times (Queen’s), The Rink (Cambridge) and Polishing The Sun (Barn).
Noel Gay Theatre, an independent theatre management company, managed the hugely successful Rowan Atkinson: The New Review (Shaftesbury Theatre), Sugar Babies (Savoy Theatre), Other People’s Money (Lyric Theatre), Matador (Queens Theatre), Tango Argentino (Aldwych Theatre), The Cotton Club (Aldwych Theatre), and Kiss of the Spider Woman (Shaftesbury Theatre). In 1993 Chris Figg and Charles Armitage founded Noel Gay Motion Picture Company. The company co-produced Trainspotting as well as producing a further half a dozen motion pictures.
Noel Gay Television and Noel Gay Motion Picture Company run by Charles Armitage split from the Noel Gay Organisation in 2000.
Today, under Chief Executive Alex Armitage and Director Louise Fennimore, Noel Gay Artists is acknowledged as the leader in the field of representation as well as continuing to ‘specialise in not specialising’.