John Ellis – I Worked as Joint Assistant Manager at the Ritz Between 1969 – 1973 ish.

Hello, Just found your site, what a great idea.

I worked as joint assistant manager at the Ritz between 1969 – 1973 ish. When I first started the manager was a guy called Alan Coulson and the catering manager was Judith Gee (Fantastic at her job but hard work) and the second time the manager was Brian Thompson, who I think came from Nottingham previously. The catering manager was Tony Fitton. I came originally from Blackpool Locarno, where I was a trainee manager under Bill Hunt we were great mates and I am so sorry to read he has passed on. The manager at the time cica. 1969 was an Irishman called Morgan Hosey.

My other places within Mecca were Manger at the Nocturne club under Bolton Palais and Samantha’s club above the Plaza in Stockport.

I recognise other names on this page: Bernard from the Ritz, what a great guy he was one of the few people I have met that could stack 36 gallon kegs on his own. Bernard would eat 2 meat and potato pies coverd in brown sauce between a full loaf for his lunch. Martin Baird mentioned Pete  Devereux, I used to rent his house off him in Ashton on Mersey in Sale. Anyone know what happened to him? Loads of stuff to share at a later date. This has brought back some great memories. Cheers

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

Thousands delighted as Atlantis rises above the water

In November 1999 I moved into a shell building on the Valley Leisure Park in Bolton. It was to become Atlantis Nightclub and was due to open on Valentines Night, February 2000.

My Deputy was Mark Wilson and the Food & Beverage Manager was Andy Appleton.

Two weeks prior to the opening, and while the builders were still on site, a mains water connection to the 2000 gallon water tank came apart, just above my office.

Water cascaded down onto my desk; while I sat there soaked to the skin.

All the equipment we had stored in the office was soon floating around, including computers and the box office equipment etc.

We were panicking; moving equipment, and brushing the flood water straight down an open drain in the corridor. My wife had to bring me a complete change of clothes.

Then the call came from Bill McGregor the Operations Director – ” Och! it cannot be that bad “. It was! We had to work through a disaster, and then make sure that the club opened on time.

The local paper`s headline was “New Superclub Atlantis under water – opening date in doubt”. Clearly this was exactly what we needed to boost our pre-opening publicity – and of course we met the deadlines.

The VIP Opening was the biggest thing to happen in Bolton for years, and was attended by thousands, with Marc Bannerman from Eastenders cutting the ribbon.

Atlantis went on to be First Leisure’s busiest and most profitable club in the North West – until changes in operating policies took it downhill.

I went on to be Regional Manager after opening another highly successful club – Destiny and Elite at Cheshire Oaks, in Ellesmere Port for the same company.

My baptism as a Regional Manager was to sort out the aftermath of a shooting outside a nightclub.


The name of the club? – None other than Atlantis Bolton.

Victorian values at a Chippendale Show – get a life!

Having survived the pre-opening floods of water at Atlantis Bolton, we went on to enjoy floods of customers pouring into club. All was going well – until we decided to put on the Chippendales as part of a National First Leisure Tour.

We sold out 1800 tickets for the 8pm show and built a portable stage at one end of the club.

Because we had sold 99.9% of the tickets to the female population of Bolton we just didn’t have enough toilets for them all, so we had to turn the gents over to them as well – and you can imagine some of the “urinal” comments.

Before the day of the show I was called up to the local Police Station and warned that the show mustn’t include any nudity etc – “or else” – I was reminded of all the conditions on my license!

Had he heard the comments and suggestions that were to come from the Bolton lasses on the night, he would have fallen out of his chair!

The ladies of Bolton absolutely loved the show and I thought it was quite mild, but I still got a phone call from the Police Superintendant on the Monday, who said one of his female officers had been in the show and thought that it was quite suggestive because a member of the public was brought on stage to sit on a Chippendales knee.

“Get a Life”!

At 10pm, when the show was over, the males arrived and couldn’t believe their luck!

1800 females going wild for male company!

We took a fortune even though the tickets were only £8 in advance.

But yhe greatest pleasure of the night was the look on the face of the General Manager of Ritzy.

He was well Ritzied off.

Those were the days!

Little did I realise how the Mecca Ltd legacy of the of the past still meant so much today.

I began working at the Hull Locarno during the last months of its era. It was tired. Something of an anachronism. Bailey`s cabaret club had opened. Presenting ballroom dancing with live bands was becoming less viable, and the Locarno was going to close.

Of course the building was to remain; this time fitted out as Tiffany`s. Still offering a limited amount of ballroom dancing, as well as cabaret, but with the addition of Annabella`s  discotheque. Formerly the Locarno balcony area.

But before all this I would sit for hours on that balcony with the manager, Brian Train, listening to his stories of Glasgow, Belfast, Miss World Competitions, Portsmouth, The Lyceum, and an eclectic mix directors, managers, band leaders, etc . Some tales to make you cringe. Many to which not to be repeated!

It was during one of those conversations that Brian gave me a booklet entitled “Mecca Ltd Party Catering”. I thanked him and kept it safe.

Little did I realise how the Mecca Ltd legacy of the past would mean so much today.

The imagery on the outer pages below may be dated, but the end result was tens of thousands of people each week enjoying a special occasion at their local dancehall

76 Southwark Street London S.E.1 was one of the best known addresses of its day. Managers dreaded being invited there, while every customer had access to it and to Managing Director Eric Morley.

Interesting to note that the opening of the Hull Locarno allowed its future customers time to recover financially from the annual “wakes weeks”.

Listed below are the Mecca dance halls of the early 60s, where you will see that the Leeds Locarno had Jimmy Saville as its manager – I wonder if we will ever know what really happened there!

It is my understanding that at least 11 of the  30 venues/locations are still trading as nightclubs. Many of the managers became the industry legends of the time. Music changed; fashion, technology and customer aspiration moved on, but the heart of the industry remained constant.

Brian would have been just as successful as a manager today, as he had been in the past, for which there is indisputable proof  –

But that`s a story for another day




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