Tribute to a great man – Industry legend Sid Steward has passed away

Tribute to a great man

We were saddened to learn of the death of industry legend Sid Stewart, who  passed away on the 17th of April 2014.

There are a number of articles on Locarno Boy relating to Sid, but the greatest memories are with those who worked with him over the years, and became lifetime friends.

He was both an industry character and an industry professional who worked tirelessly to help others.

Retirement was never an option for him. When he finished his nightclub career he concentrated on his work with the Samaritans, where he worked tirelessly to help others.

Originally from the North East, Sid was one of the key players in the growth of the Bailey Organisation,  which brought him to Blackburn. It was from here that he helped the company open cabaret clubs in the North West, but his heart was always in the Cavendish at Blackburn.

We were lucky enough to meet up with Sid  a few months ago. He was witty and as sharp as ever, reminiscing about his days at the “Cav”, laughing about the occasion when Norman Wisdom wanted to fight with him, and the hours spent with Tommy Cooper and the Cavendish staff – as Tommy ate a basket meal of chicken and chips that lasted from the public leaving the premises to the sun rising.

Those of us who had the pleasure of working with Sid will never forget the honesty and warmth he offered. Sometimes “shooting from the hip”, but never malicious or hurtful. He was a man who knew the importance of loyalty, and was inherently loyal by instinct.

A true professional and a great man.




January 1973 – Baileys Hull and working with Ray Copeland, Norman Wisdom, Tommy Cooper and Tiny Tim

January 1973 – Stuart`s Edwards next project – Baileys Hull and working with Ray Copeland, Norman Wisdom, Tommy Cooper and Tiny Tim, along with an eclectic mix of characters; some famous; some not so.

Ray Copeland was the general manager, supported by his wife Jeannie as Chief Cashier.

His deputy was “Smooth, sophisticated babe magnet” Terry Molloy. Further described by Stuart as “Englebert Humperdink on a good day”.

Management and artists stayed at “The Whitehouse”, and it was here that Stuart stayed at the same time as Norman Wisdom. They had dinner together and enjoyed each other`s company. However, not everyone saw Norman in the same way.

Norman Wisdom was a perfectionist, and expected ultimate attention to detail from those supporting him. Consequently stage management and lighting technicians would be savaged for the slightest delay or mistake whilst he was on stage. Furthermore he could remember every minuscule error in detail, via the stage crew. The allegations of him wanting to fight with Sid Steward and John Smith may only be subject of rumour. Or perhaps not – Sid clearly remembers a very angry Mr Wisdom being told that there was no possibility of “a completely white stage at such short notice” at the Cavendish Blackburn.

Off stage Norman was a most affable, friendly man,  and a mirror image of his stage persona.


A Country and Western private hire had been booked for the Wednesday of the week of Olivia Newton John topped the bill at Baileys. And with her hit “Take me Home, Country Roads” playing everywhere including The Les Dawson Show, management persuaded her to make a stage appearance during the Country and Western night.

Unfortunately this turned out to be a serious mistake, and poor Olivia left the stage in tears. Her act was not appreciated. Apparently not Country and Western enough for the Hull cowboys.

The following night, and every other night of the week she left the stage to thunderous applause.


Around this time Stuart also worked with The Move, Rockin` Berries, Noddy Holder and Slade, and Showaddywaddy. The latter winning a battle of the bands talent competition at Bailey`s Leicester, where one of the prizes was a week`s appearance at each of the Bailey clubs.

Charlie Williams, Tommy Cooper, Mike Yarwood, Duggie Brown, Jim “Bullseye” Bowen, Colin Crompton, Paul Melba, Freddy Starr, Frankie Howard, Mike Yarwood, Frank Carson, and a host of lesser known acts also appeared.

Many acts “doubled” by appearing on the same night at Bailey`s Doncaster and Sheffield clubs.

Acts also came over from America, many via the Henry Sellars Organisation. They were usually paid £1000 per week, while Henry Sellars charged the club £3000 – although there was also the cost of supporting musicians, transport and accommodation, which only left around £1000 profit!

The late Buddy Holly`s Crickets appeared, but were late for band call due to J.I. Allison flying over late from America. At this time he was also Elvis Presley`s drummer, and had been backing Elvis on the previous night. Johnny Tillotson (Poetry in Motion), Chris Montez (Let`s Dance), Tiny Tim (Tiptoeing Through the Tulips), R Dean Taylor (There`s Ghost in my House) and a host of other acts appeared.

Stuart also enjoyed the appearance of Roger Whittaker, who travelled  to Hull in his large white chauffeur driven Rolls Royce. “Another of the industries really nice guys,” commented Stuart.

And so was Ray Park, Bailey`s Catering Coordinator.


Ray was a hilarious to work with. The consummate professional to the customers. A man always delivering a professional standard and service. Although some of his methods were omitted from the textbook.

It was Baileys policy was to present good quality, food, cabaret, and service, on time.

So when the chef decided to walk out at the start of a capacity attendance night, Ray zoomed into action.

Without hesitation he walked out of the building, and straight up to man working a hot-dog stall. After quickly convincing the man that to be able to cook and serve hot dogs you needed the same skills as a chef. Ray immediately escorted him up to Bailey`s kitchen, and issued instructions.

Meals were served. The customers were happy, and the new “chef” turned out to be quite competent.


Paul and Phil Rigby also worked at Hull Bailey`s during this time, as did John McVay (brother of Ray) and the inimitable Graham White, who had previously been a doorman at Leicester Baileys.

And we have more stories from Stuart to publish later.


Footnote: –  to learn more about the amazing J.I.Allison follow the link



The other side of the stage at Blackburn Cavendish – November 1972

After a successful decade working in support bands, Stuart Edwards turned his back on the spotlights illuminating a career working with The Beatles and some of the other iconic bands of the era.

He had joined the world of the trainee manager, where most of his duties involved working front of house, as he began learning about life at the other side of the stage.

Blackburn Cavendish – November 1972; home of the master of showmanship, diplomacy, motivation and a management style creating some of the best managers in the industry – Sid Stewart.

Sid was supported by Reception Manager Phil Rigby, Bars Manager Paul Rigby, Lighting Operator “Twiggy Sue” Atkinson, Restaurant Manager George Moss, plus Rod Pearson and Andy Conquer.

Lovelace Watkins was the first act Stuart worked with during his trainee days, followed by the Rockin` Berries, and the frisky Larry Grayson, who took a shine to him (sadly for Larry attraction was far from mutual).

When asked about any difficulties with the authorities, Stuart only remembers the unruly son of a magistrate, but that did not deter from the success and image of the Cavendish.Business was good, with capacity audiences, and bookings up to New Year and beyond.

Each night Stuart drove home to Blackpool. Early one morning he was woken by a phone call from Jim, the Martel rep, asking “What happened at Blackburn?”

Jim continued before Stuart could reply. “The Cavendish burnt to the ground.”

Stuart had been one of the last people to leave the building, leaving the night watchman to begin his nightly task of a “rough clean” of the building, in readiness for the early morning cleaners.

He arrived at the club to find it transformed into a gutted shell with only the walls standing. In addition a huge section of the shopping centre underneath had been flooded  by water from the fire hoses.

One theory was that cigarette waste had been stored in an adjoining waste bin area. This had ignited during the night, and was blazing out of control before the night watchman smelt  the smoke. By the time the fire brigade arrived the whole club was ablaze, destroying any hopes of hosting capacity booked Christmas and New Year Parties.

A management meeting was held at a local pub. Enormous issues needed to be resolved, amongst which was the hiring of St Georges Hall for the New Year`s Eve Dinner Dance and Cabaret – using the cabaret previously booked for the Cavendish.

The night was a phenomenal success, created by a mix of stoicism and wartime spirit, coupled with Sid Stewart`s determination that the show must go on. A fitting finale to Stuart`s Blackburn days, and a classic example of leadership and customer loyalty.

On the 2nd of January 1973 Stuart was transferred to Baileys Hull, and promoted to Junior Assistant Manager.

But that`s another story….

Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961

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

A new manager, a white envelope and a scary executive

Shortly after I joined First Leisure, Bill Gilligan (Regional Manager) asked me to work on Kaleidoscope, which was the second room at Peppermint Place, Blackburn. It was mid-February 1991, the room had just been refurbished, and it was my job to oversee the management of the room on the opening night.

I was to look after the Mayoral Party and other VIPs, had been given drinks vouchers to ensure that everyone was sufficiently lubricated.

It seems that every company has a senior executive who can instil fear into the very soul of a man, often by reputation alone, and tonight I had him in my flock of VIPs. His very presence made me find worries that should never have entered my head.

Suddenly I got chatting to him, which continued for quite a while. We talked about business, and the industry etc. Bill Gilligan came over and gave me some more vouchers to use, but my new found executive friend said “here you can have mine, I`m going now”. He then gave me a white envelope and moved away.

When I opened the envelope it revealed a Valentines Card he had been given.

I then had a dilemma as I was new to the company – do I not say anything or do I discreetly go over and say “excuse me, but you have given me the wrong envelope?

With my heart in my mouth I did the latter, and from that day on we always got on like a house on fire!

Strange how things work out sometimes.

© 2018 LocarnoBoy

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑