This picture arrived in our office recently.
We think it is of the Plaza Belfast – but what is the name of the band – and band leader?
We thought you would like to see a list of the Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961.
Clearly there are many town and cities not mentioned – such as Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, and many many others, but perhaps there is a clue in the number of planned openings highlighted in the list below.
Basildon Locarno – Town Centre – Manager M Green
Belfast Plaza – Chichester Street – Manager D R Clark – Phone Belfast 25294
Blackburn Locarno – St Peter Street – Manager B Gee – Phone Blakewater 85538
Bolton Palais – Bridge Street – Manager W. McLeish – Phone Bolton 1451
Bradford Locarno – Manningham Lane – Manager Alan Boyce (Opening 9th September 1961)
Burnley Locarno – Manchester Road – Manager C Isherwood (Formerly the Mechanic`s Institute)
Bury Prince`s Ballroom – Bolton Street – Manager L Byron – Phone Bury 1705
Coventry Locarno – Smithford Way – Manager R Bloxham – Phone Coventry 24570
Derby Locarno – Babington Lane – Manager A Ferris – Phone Derby 41441
Edinburgh Palais – Fountainbridge – Manager G Knowles – Phone Fountainbridge 7427
Hull Locarno – Ferensway – Manager J Munro ( Opening 16th September 1961)
Ilford Palais – High Road – Manager B Foster – Phone Ilford 3128
Leeds Locarno – County Arcade – Manager J Savile – Phone Leeds 31046/7
Leicester Palais – Humberstone Gate – Manager G Pickavant – Phone 69967
Liverpool Grafton Rooms – West Derby Road – Manager T Reid – Phone Anfield 3928
London Lyceum – Wellington Street, The Strand – Manager D Preedy – Phone Temple Bar 3715
London Carlton Rooms – 140 Maida Vale, W 9 – Manager J H Richardson – Phone Maida Vale 5289
London Empire Rooms – Tottenham Court Road – Manager C Self – Phone Euston 4173
Manchester Plaza – Oxford Road – Manager P Wild – Phone Central 7441
Newcastle upon Tyne The Mayfair – (Planned for opening during October 1961)
Norwich Sampson and Hercules Ballroom – Tombland – Manager R V Shackell – Phone Norwich 21541
Norwich Norwood Rooms – Aylsham Road – Manager G Barbour – Phone Norwich 46751
Nottingham Sherwood Rooms – Greyfriar Gate – Manager N F Kemp – Phone Nottingham 50555
Nottingham Locarno – St Anns Well Road – Manager G Lloyd – Phone Nottingham 44354
Rochdale Carlton – Great George Street – – Manager E Mills – Phone Rochdale 3347
Sale Locarno – Washway Road – Manager J Goodings – Phone Sale 1508
Sale Embassy Rooms – Washway Road – Manager H Burnett – Phone Sale 7522
Sheffield Locarno – London Road – Manager M S Proctor – Phone Sheffield 22586
Stevenage Locarno – Manager B A Elmer-Smith (Opening September/October 1961)
Wakefield Locarno – Southgate – Manager R Keith – Phone Wakefield 6515/6
It`s so refreshing to see that all is well in club world in Belfast. We checked out El Divino – and the Friday Nights Keep Growing.
And it`s no surprise: – the age old mix of high standards of entertainment – plus integrity – added to atmosphere and showmanship will always bring out the best of the clubbers!
Girls you can always click onto the El Divino Facebook to find the pictures of the fellas!
Unashamedly styled on its namesake at San Antonio Ibiza, and located on a fabulous waterside setting, El Divino Belfast reaches the point at which decadence and atmosphere create a magical club world.
There are three levels to the club, each with its own music policy ranging from RnB to Hip Hop to Vocal House
After only a few weeks of trading the club has created an aspirational clientele that many club managers can only dream of.
The warmth of welcome by Mark, Paul and the team is such that when you enter club there are no strangers; only new friends.
Roger Sanchez from MTV recently enjoyed the El Divino welcome, although the overall feel is that everyone is a VIP.
The venue trades five nights each week, and the customers have no difficulty making the short journey from the city centre to the venue. At the end of the night there are no problems with customer dispersal, which is essential, so to ensure that local residents are not disturbed.
Everyone here at Locarno Boy sends their best wishes El Divino, and hope the venue enjoys many years of club-life magic.
Evelyn began working at the Plaza Ballroom around 1960, for local businessman John Dosser. It had no bars, was open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and had music for dancing from a big band and a group. Ballroom dancing was the main entertainment, but “jiving” was allowed during the first hour, and the final half hour.
But times were changing, as the one hour lunchtime DJ sets became more popular. Belfast also had a premise called “The Blouse Club”, which was ladies only; although men were allowed to enter providing they were invited by a lady.
During 1961 Evelyn moved to Glasgow Locarno, where she met, and in 1964, married Brian Train. Which, in one way, presented quite a problem; Mecca Dancing would not let a husband and wife team work together in the same premises. To further complicate matters, Brian was appointed General Manager of the Plaza Belfast. The salary was thirty five pounds per week plus bonus, plus a company house and a company car. So Evelyn resigned from Mecca Ltd.
Brian`s first move was to explain to the police how he was going to resolve a disorder problem. The clientele at the Plaza was becoming young which discouraged the ballroom dancers; the police did help and the business began to flourish, although the local newspaper had to have its say –
“It`s a quiet life in city ballrooms
BRIAN TRAIN had a private chuckle when he read a resident magistrates outburst against dance hall rowdyism in Belfast
Mr Bradley McCall QC RM said he was getting very tired of trouble outside the ballrooms. He sympathised with the attendants and exonerated management from blame.
But Yorkshire born Mr Train had this to say about dancing matters in the city:
“They are the best I have seen anywhere. Actually, Belfast ballrooms are quiet and peaceful after some I have managed in Glasgow and Hull.
Now, of course we employ bouncers – name me one dancehall that doesn`t.
But people who come along to the Plaza – and to many other ballrooms- are respectable and well behaved.
Why, the other night we had Germans, Americans and Belfast people mixing freely and happily
Any trouble that does blow up from time to time usually has a girl at the bottom of it.”
Many of the previous problems at the Plaza had been caused by the younger people, so after assessing his options, Brian set about finding a solution by way of building up an older clientele –
Then to add the extras –
Brian was asked to be the Vice President of the City of Belfast Girl Pipers, but he never took up the offer.
And there is nothing wrong with a little extra publicity – especially when you are paid for it
Promotion eventually drew Brian away from Belfast, and back to Glasgow, which was sad in many ways. It is my home city, and we were both very happy there.
But I think that the idea of a new challenge was just too strong for us.