CategoryNewcastle on Tyne

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

Working on board the Tuxedo Royale, I was responsible for the Sunset Bar

Working on board the Tuxedo Royale, I was responsible for the Sunset Bar, that specialised in cocktails, wine & Champagnes. At the time the flair style of service was pretty rare but a few of us in the team had taught ourselves a few tricks.

One Saturday night during an early session, I’m training a new team member and basically showing off. Armed with a bottle a Grenadine I’m casually talking to the new team member and spinning a bottle.

Imagine my embarrassment when I spotted a trail of red syrupy grenadine on the floor, up the bar, trailing on the bar top, and then up a customers back of a lovely cream suit!

Time for a break! Took the new member of staff off to so some paperwork – and made myself scarce! The customer was totally oblivious to the red stripe up his back!

Flair!!!  Although I wasn’t as nearly good as the guys nowadays, in the early 90’s I still felt quite impressive. Many of the customers had never witnessed it before and coupled with a good cocktail it was a great favourite with the girls, often I would get ‘extra’ attention from groups of girls and they would buy more cocktails on this basis.

One particular night I am on fire, serving really fast, spinning and throwing with no mistakes, and after one routine a load of girls where cheering, all 25+ and older, and there was defiantly something with one of them…..

A guy came up after the routine –  all excited, full of smiles and filled with enthusiasm.

“Hey were you in that film?” he asked.

Proudly & smugly I answered infront of the girls –

“What?, Cocktail?”

“No”, he replied, “Elephant Man!”

Great put down!

Never stopped me, and a great opportunity as I milked pity from the girls.

That Famous Boat on the Tyne – Gone??? – But Never Forgotten

Those of us who worked on the Tuxedo Royale will never forget the vibrant atmosphere she created, and the absolute pride we all felt  as part of the “crew” of this unique venue.

I first started my Career with European Leisure PLC back 1989 as a glass collector. The venue I worked at was the TUXEDO ROYALE a fantastic roll on – roll off ferry converted into a nightclub. It was owned by European Leisure until 1992, but after many legal wrangling was sold back to the former owners. During the two and a bit years – what a great family atmosphere this unique venue had. The vessel had 7 rooms that catered for the then Newcastle’s & The North East’s more higher end crowd.

My very first task on my starting night was to provide all the chauffeur drivers in the car park with coffee & tea.

The rooms consisted of the main room, ‘Club Europa’ – a mainstream chart room with that incredible and infamous revolving dance floor, the cause of much amusement watching the unsuspecting guests losing their bearings. On this level there were two function rooms; the Admiral & Commodore Suites, which were used most weekends. These rooms were very versatile and used for everything from weddings to fashion shows to corporate meeting & showcases.

The next level up hosted three more rooms. ‘Stowaways’ – a soul and disco room, and ‘Trader Jacks’ the party room, that sold ‘Hot Roast Beef’sandwiches at midnight.

On the other side of the reception area on this level was the Italian/Al a carte, which attracted many celebs in its time; Kevin Costner, Brian Adams, Take That, a range of Soap Celebs (not paid PA’s) and Sportsmen & women. And of course Gazza!

The next level housed the Sunset Bar. A nice chilled and professional cocktail bar, with no pints allowed! This room was led by the 2 musicians ‘2 in a Bag’, who played live jazz and easy listening music. This room was also access the deck that went around the whole ship, the ‘sights’ of Tyneside could be seen at any time. (Sights – mainly frolicking in all the nooks and crannies). Later we developed the next level into a BBQ and open air bar for summer and was opened by Viv Richards.

For such a big venue the team of 45+ were a close team and fond memories. We had parties and “get togethers” most weekends and the staff nights every Sunday in the likes of Central Park, part of the old Studio & Ritzy or even the Oxford Ballroom building, TUX 2 and the then then vibrant Bigg Market. Many stories will be in all the teams heads as most  look back with fondness at this amazing place to work.

Deliveries dictated by the tide. Alan painting the boat from Bow to stern & back again. Stock & Kegs falling into the Tyne, Risqué goings on in the Bridge & old cabins and depths of the boat, the odd suicide into the car park, The constant 5 degree list, the 18 fire engines that had to come to the venue each time the alarm went off – all just a few great memories of the venue.

The Boat, had a poor end, becoming an eyesore and ‘rustbucket’ on the Tyne. It moved to Middlesborugh, traded for a bit and then ,well – just left for thieves  to steal whatever is sale-able, consequently the boat is now a mess. Luckily there is one chap prepared to take the vessel and repair it and even make it seaworthy again. Good Luck with that.

Now there were two boats on the Tyne in the later 90’s The Princess took the spot the Royale throughout the earlier years – and then the Princess again.

Many debates about which was best, I only know my great time I had from 89 to 92 on that famous boat on the Tyne –

Gone??? –  But Never Forgotten

Watch out for some stories coming soon.



Image of Tuxedo Royale from – where there are lots more “Tuxedo” images.

Record business, crashed lighting rig, John Leslie and Simon Cowell

 What a great feeling when a plan comes together.

And I can still feel the buzz from when we turned The Studio Newcastle into Mecca`s busiest nightclub outside of London, with over 7000 admissions per week.

The DJ line-up was John Lesley (of Blue Peter fame) and Sean Brett (who went onto be Marketing Director of First Leisure Dancing), plus support from Alan Cartey, Jonathon Storrs and Romando Fonda .

This was despite the VIP opening being a near disaster.

Mecca`s Chief Executive, Michael Guthrie – visited the club prior to the opening at 6.30pm with Jeremy Long (Finance Director) and entourage.

Ivor Green and his team had installed a state of the art – massive moving lighting rig above the dance floor, but the limiters had been wired incorrectly, so when Mr Gutherie and party decided to watch the amazing light show, they witnessed an absolute disaste.

Instead of the rig moving apart, the two main pods crashed together and broke all the neon strips on both sides. This made 50% of the lighting effects and rig unusable on that vital VIP night.

I had to pick everyone up and get them motivated for the night, which went fantastically in the end, despite me getting locked in the cellar void for 30 minutes, whilst turning on the toilet cisterns. The plumber had forgotten to do this, which was made even more memorable, by some drunk who had closed the access door behind me.

Monday Student Night attracted 1500 every week despite Tony Marshall saying we shouldn’t let anyone in wearing jeans, which of course we ignored. Tuesday was contrived as a Chinese night – to attract the city’s thriving Chinese and restaurant community and we also used it as an after party for Tyne Tees TV ‘The Roxy’ programme. This was ITV’s competitor to Top of The Pops – we provided the audience by giving free tickets for the show. Sean and John did the warm up work; this gave John his break on TV and his first chart show on Super Channel.

John then went on to get the job presenting Blue Peter. I had won a Mecca incentive prize of holiday to Thailand and took John with me, as my wife could not go. He found out that he had been given the Blue Peter job while we were in Bangkok. And wow – did we celebrate!

The Studio was a great club; one that attracted big crowds and lots of celebrities.

On one occasion we had Sinitta on stage with her boyfriend/manager Simon Cowell supporting and dancing for her. She was taken ill after the show and we had to get an ambulance for her. Needless to say Mr Cowell was not pleased that a local photographer had managed to get to the club before the ambulance, and I`ve no idea who tipped the photographer off!

Of course with every successful club there are the tough times too – I remember being threatened and followed home by local ‘gangsters’. Also having my nose broken during an attack/attempted robbery before work – and two masked idiots driving a Land Rover through the rear fire doors on a Wednesday afternoon, then setting off a military flare in the middle of the dance floor. We were subject of much jealousy in the Newcastle club world, because we took the lion’s share of the business.

We became celebrities and were invited to all the big events – we had the run of the city for a couple of years, until we all moved on.

Great memories- great people. Many many thanks to all involved.



Graham Peel -Tribute to a great man.

Graham Peel – tribute to a great man.

We have enjoyed  a number of “Locarno Boy” interviews with Graham.

Each time he was candid, and absolutely honest – as he told the story of his introduction to the industry in his native Newcastle and onwards.

He was forever interesting; and always same “Graham”.

That larger than life character who loved the industry and probably had “let`s get bums on seats bonnie lad” written right through him like a stick of Blackpool Rock. An honest caring man, a man to be relied on at all times… unless…

His beloved Newcastle United were playing. Because there was no way he was going to miss the game. And no game was complete without a substantial visit to the Bigg Market afterwards.

At first he would hide away if he saw someone who may recognise him and let the cat out of the bag to his manager, but eventually it became accepted that he was simply part of the football club.

A key factor was his Mecca Regional Manager.

Graham had spent the whole football season avoiding fellow Newcastle supporter Norman Kemp, who in turn had spent the same season in a state of hilarity watching the evasive antics of his employee. With the whole charade ending when Norman invited Graham into his office to review the team`s performance.

During the interviews with Graham he was 100% honest with us. So honest that each interview was followed by a series of phone calls saying “You wont print this” and “You wont print that, will you?”. We didn`t, and we wont.

Consequently we have a huge amount of information that may one day have to be masked into fiction.

Graham cared about everyone he worked for, but never forgave Tony Spragg for making him work on the night of his 21st birthday, but would never hear a bad word about Tony. He genuinely cared for the nightclub industry, and all those working in and around it, which is confirmed by the phenomenal amount of hits on this site and other tributes on Facebook etc.

He was a character and an enigma. A treat to be with. A living industry encyclopedia of industry facts, stories and ways to get around a problem.

During one of our interviews I asked him if he had met Lady Diana.

“Wey aye,” came the reply – as he leaned forward to speak in hushed tones.

“When I was managing Hammersmith Palais she was with Prince Charles. It was a Princes Trust Night.” He then leaned over and spoke in a whisper.

He went on explain that it was during the early to middle 1980s, and with a spectacular array of stars from the music world present. Whilst the royal party were hovering in the foyer Graham noticed two people were missing. A very successful male recording artist and a girl from a very popular group.

Graham found them behind a screen in the most compromising position, and had them “thrown out” – to quote Graham. Which presumably was not in the same direction as the Royal couple were going.

“I had to,” he explained. “Wey aye wasna having that goin on in ma reception.”

We promised Graham we would not name names, but often have a smile when watching TOP2……

And also smile at the image of Graham, trying to be professional as he looked after the biggest celebrity couple of the day, whilst organising the removal of two of the biggest recording stars of the day, but that was Graham…

He always found a way. And he “found a way to put probably 100.000 bums on seats during his career, and made millions in profit for his employers.

Graham will never be replaced. And should never be.

He was a one off. A special man, and one whose name is etched in nightclub history.

God bless Graham. We have all lost a dear friend.


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