The Mayfair Banqueting Suites and the Locarno Ballrooms

Welcome to Locarno Boy. We hope you enjoy our site.

We’ve been up and running for over 5 years now, so we thought it high time we paid tribute to the amazing Mecca Ltd banqueting teams.

So we’ve started off with events from the Mayfair Birmingham.

The first image is of Princess Ann stage side with the Joe Loss Orchestra at the Mayfair Birmingham. A fabulous night, but not an unusual one. Simply the Mayfair doing what it did best. First class hospitality, food and atmosphere, all under the guidance of exceptional management, chefs, entertainers and staff. Often the same management who sat beside the emerging bands of the day; Queen, Cream, The Faces, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Kinks, Black Sabbath, The Beatles – and the list goes on. But does anyone recognise the man in the Tuxedo second from the right??

The second image is again of the Mayfair Birmingham. The afternoon audience is made up of staff from the Coca Cola factory, being entertained by The New Seekers. A “thank-you” show for helping them reach number one in the charts with “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing”

The Mayfair Suites were located at Newcastle upon Tyne, Birmingham, Bristol and other key major cities, and doubled up as entertainment and dancing venues as bookings dictated. Locarno Ballrooms, and larger Tiffany’s also had dedicated catering facilities. High profile London Mecca dancing venues also had benefit of the organisations quality restaurants and staff.

The Locarnos were the flagship dancehalls of Mecca Ltd – where Managers trained in every aspect of ballroom/nightclub management from how to defuse conflict and manage security staff to overseeing dinner dances, stage presentation and much, much more. The key to it all being their own personality and style to find different ways each week to make their venue even more interesting.

Sir Alex Ferguson met his wife at Glasgow Locarno. Julie Walters danced at Birmingham Locarno, security was maintained at Bristol Locarno by Darth Vader (David Prowse) and we are told, Edinburgh Locarno by James Bond (Sean Connery)

The BBC televised “Come Dancing” from Mecca venues, while the Miss World competition showed Mecca flagship premises such as Hammersmith Palais, The Empire Leicester Square, and The Lyceum ballroom to world audiences.

Locarno Boy is currently working on an exciting new project, and we really would appreciate your help –

We would like to make contact with anyone who worked in a Mecca venue between 1961 and 1974. Could you help us? Be great if you can!

Note – we cannot trace the origins of the images in this post. If anyone has information contact us. It is not our intention to infringe copyright.

 

 

Derby Dancing Project – 50 Years of Dancing in the City

Message from Grace Osbourne

Hello

Déda  are currently running a project called Derby Dancing, which is exploring the story of dance in Derby since 1950s.
We are looking for information, memories and photographs of Dancing in Derby, and wondered if you might be able to help us by contributing any relevant images or memories of stories of Derby. Please get in touch if you would like to contribute any relevant information about nightclubs in Derby.

Feel free to contact me via Locarno Boy if you would like any more information, or get in touch directly on marketing@deda.uk.com 

Here is a link to our webpage http://www.deda.uk.com/about-us/20-year-anniversary-celebration/derby-dancing/

We look forward to hearing from you!

Grace

Note from Locarno Boy – Grace contacted Locarno Boy a few days ago and we have offered her any of the Derby and area contact from our site to help with the Déda Project.
Please keep a look out for further information.

Derby Locarno DJ Gareth Butler has Contacted Locarno Boy…..

Hi, I’m Gareth Butler. Living now in California.

I was DJ at the Locarno in 1965/66. Wonderful times there during a memorable time for music.
Hosted some stars of the time including Lee Dorsey (Working in the Coalmine) and Ginger Baker. I worked on the revolvimg stage as DJ Gary.
My show featured the Locarno Lineup when I posted the results of the votes by each patron the previous night for their favourite tunes. The Top Ten. And played them as a highlight of the night. 45’s on a twin deck turntable.
I have no pictures of that time. If anyone out there does I would LOVE to get copies.
I am shortly going to visit my homeland and especially Derbyshire where I’m from so if anyone has memories from that time or especially any fellow workers at the Locarno are still around please contact me.
Thanks so much. Gareth.

Footnote from Locarno Boy –

Great to hear from you Gareth, and if anyone would like to hear from him….. or better still meet him when comes back to the UK…… lets us know so we can arrange a meet-up

Oldham Cat’s Whiskers Big Barry and the Ghost

From Teresa Stevenson

Cats Whiskers Oldham and R&Js World Disco Dancing Championships

I remember Heather Reece she was a good dancer, she had a sister
called Carol who won Miss Cats Whiskers
I know this because I came second. The DJ was called Skraggs and there
was also one called Dave? think he went to Australia
I can’t recall the Cats Whiskers ever being called Tiffanys.
I worked as a barmaid for several years at the Cats Whiskers upstairs near the
Bird Cage and Hansom Cabs. T
The head bouncer at the time was called Big Barry.
I actually saw the Bay City Rollers there – good old days
I saw a ghost. A woman with a white gown, just as I was about to ask her to go down stairs she walked passed me and disappeared
I do believe big Barry also saw the same one.
The manager was called Vicki, she was very tall and looked like a model.
The music was fantastic ranging from Motown / northern soul to funk and pop. All good.
After the Cats Whiskers the club was called Bo Bos

Teresa

The Birth of the Black Orchid – Despite the Disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon

Finding a site for a suitable nightclub in any town or city was always difficult. Especially back the 1980s, when everyone attending a nightclub, restaurant etc after 11pm had to consume a substantial meal so as to allow them to consume alcohol. Add to this the vociferous jockeying of the existing nightclub managers/owners who wanted to retain  the status quo, and often fuelled the police with stories of “streets of fear”. Although  the police generally took the view that enough was enough. Better the devil you know!

Nottingham was no exception. The city was regarded as prime hunting ground for nightclub customers, although it seemed impossible to even find a site. Never mind locking horns with existing nightclubs and authorities.

Then came a breakthrough. Property developers Wilson Bowen had a suitable site for a “Super Bowl” at Derby, and another one at Lenton Nottingham, which “may be suitable” for a nightclub. The infrastructure was complete, plus a completed Showcase cinema and Sawyers Bar Diner. All on the site of a former council rubbish tip.

Deals were done. Plans drawn. Project meetings planned. Spreadsheets prepared, scrutinised, and prepared again… and again. In amongst all this a trading budget was drawn up, with only the slightest hint of reality, which was deemed necessary to obtain funding.

Everything was looking good. Everyone looked forward to the birth of the Black Orchid – despite the disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon.

The plans and artist impressions were amazing. Terry Wheater and his team at Group Northern had really produced the goods – although those guys had also created Paradise Lost Watford, The Dome and Pagoda Park Birmingham, Pink Coconut Derby and a host of other multi-million pounds profit earners.

Everyone was ecstatic until it was realised that this would be one of the first night clubs in the country to fall under the new “Disabled Access” legislation.Then it was discovered that the chairman of the licensing committee had a disabled daughter who enjoyed nightclubs.

Back to the drawing board. Although it seemed that by providing access for a wheelchair to all facilities the project was scuppered, with the new plans presented in sombre mood. The building looked  odd; all ramps, slides and hiding places. Albeit with beautiful lighting and decor. Something of a giant Hamster Utopia.

Matters took a turn for the worse at the Entertainment Licence meeting, when the chairman announced that he had a disabled daughter, who would not want to go to the Black Orchid. Because it looked like a discotheque for the disabled, and she wanted enjoy a discotheque for the able-bodied.

After an awkward silence he smiled and said that she did not need access to every bar, or every restaurant or dancefloor. All she needed was to be able to enter and leave the building safely, get to a bar, toilet, and a dancefloor, and to be able to have a meal.

Smiles all round until he noticed the strapline “Dancing and Cavorting” and asked what was meant by “cavorting”. “Enjoying yourself”, came the reply, his look suggested that he interpreted it as “to behave in a physically lively and uninhibited way”. Mmm!

And the reality was that approximately one and half million customers danced and cavorted at what was to become one of the UK`s most iconic nightclubs.

Finally – In case anyone wonders how the name Black Orchid came about….

That`s simple.

The star of the horseracing world at that time was Desert Orchid!

 

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