TagHammersmith Palais

The Night Graham Peel waited and waited and waited for Margaret Thatcher at the Blackpool Locarno

The late great Graham Peel left us a wealth of stories here at Locarno Boy, and on the day of Margaret Thatcher`s funeral it seems fitting to tell the following story – which we have titled –

The night Graham Peel waited and waited and waited for Margaret Thatcher at the Blackpool Locarno.

Graham was one of the most successful and nomadic nightclub managers in the industry. Working in almost every town and city in the country, he dealt with issues ranging from the Krays holding court at Tottenham Royal as they collected their protection money from “clients” – attempting to run Liverpool Tiffany`s in the face of fanatical union pressure because he had sacked someone for stealing – and meeting and greeting Prince Charles and Lady Diana at Hammersmith Palais.

On this occasion he had been sent to manage Blackpool Locarno.

On arrival he introduced himself to the staff and read the private function sheets, one of which referred to a Conservative Party event, so in his inimitable and stoic style he rang the local party office about “a Conservative Party Dance”.

At this point he was subjected to the blistering response of ” A Conservative Party Dance……..THE Conservative Party Dance”.

And from thereon things moved apace. The building underwent a transformation as it was cleaned, polished, painted and adorned with spectacular displays of plants courtesy of the Blackpool Corporation Parks Department.

On the night, with everyone standing in their allocated positions, the Locarno waited in anticipation. The dance floor shimmered under the reflection of the cleanest effect lighting in any of the Locarnos.

The was band primed and ready to ensure that Mrs Thatcher`s favourite tune would greet her the instant she arrived.

Graham stood to attention at the front door, and eventually the phone call came to say that she had left her hotel.

It was as though the building itself gasped in anticipation as the band glided seamlessly into “Hello Dolly”.

But by the end of “Hello Dolly” there was no Mrs Thatcher. So the band played it again, while Graham hopped from foot to foot. Anxious faces peered along the road……. as the band played on and on.

Suddenly the entourage appeared, Mrs Thatcher and Denis were greeted and ushered into the building to the fourth or fifth rendition of “Hello Dolly” at which point everyone began to relax.

Specialist police officers had been brought over from Northern Ireland to assist with the security for the event, a number of which were on duty in and around the Locarno as result of activities by the IRA in other parts of the country.

However this caused something of a difficulty for the then Home Secretary William Whitelaw.

Whilst attending to the needs of nature he was spooked by a number of dinner suited Irish speaking males, which made him somehow lose concentration.

All of which resulted in his exit from the Stag Room with somewhat damp shoes.

Other than the Home Secretary`s damp shoes the night was a great success, and we are indebted to Graham for relating the story.

I wonder if those who had the pleasure of working with him have any doubts as to where he will be tonight!

Hl will be standing at the Pearly Gates with his band playing……

“Hello Dolly”

Ready to say “My name`s Graham. Do you remember that night at Blackpool Locarno?”


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.


 Image from bbc.co.uk

Locarno Boy wants to hear from you.

Welcome to Locarno Boy – where we are as dedicated to the reality of life in the nightclubs of today – as we are of those in days gone by.

Locarno Boy aims to record the truth about life in the nightclub industry; to link up with as many people who “were there at the time” as possible and to create an accurate record.

The Locarno’s were the flagship dancehalls of Mecca Ltd – where Managers were 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 club 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 I’m told Edinburgh Locarno by James Bond (Sean Connery). The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Cream. Sex Pistols, Bay City Rollers etc. etc – all appeared at Mecca venues.

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.

Locarno Boy also aims to meet head-on to the challenges of the nightclub world of today, on such matters as the impact of the inexperienced managers. Those who lack training, initiative and vision. Security staff that hide behind the inadequacies of the SIA, and legislative bodies with absolutely no idea of the differences between the management of nightclubs and the management of bars.

Personal stories are flowing in from around the UK, plus reviews of some of the fabulous “must visit” nightclubs.Yes – they do exist and they don`t have to offer ridiculously cheap drinks prices to survive.

We’re looking for your comments and stories – you may want to tell us why you enjoyed a particular night club – or hated it – if you are little hesitant we can edit for you and give you pseudonym .

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