Today an item and a newspaper article from August 2016 from the Daily Mirror about the Batley Variety Club in West Yorkshire where Dame Shirley performed many times. Audrey sent us a videotape, from her late sister Jean’s collection, with an interesting programme (from 1982) about the Batley Variety Club. It also has interviews with Dame Shirley and other stars that performed there over the years like: Eartha Kitt, Cliff Richard, Dame Vera Lynn, Cilla Black, Paul Daniels, Danny La Rue, Neil Sedaka, Johnny Mathis, Engelbert Humperdinck, Lulu, The Everly Brothers, Freddy Starr, Tom Jones and many others.
The Batley Variety Club was a variety club in Batley, West Yorkshire, England. It was financed and co-founded by the late Yorkshire showman and businessman Peter Fleming and James Corrigan. It could hold around 1600 people, and offered cabaret and a dinner for 6s6d. At its peak, the club was said to have 300,000 members. It closed in 1974 and the contents auctioned off but has reopened as the Batley “Frontier” club.
The variety club shut in the early 1980s to be replaced by the Frontier nightclub and now that too is to go.
The Batley club – during its heyday – staged concerts by performers including the Bee Gees, Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, Eartha Kitt and Louis Armstrong.
It was a phenomenon of the 1960′s, the “Theatre Club”, a step up from the Working Mens Clubs that the populace fraternised of a weekend, Wakefield had one, but the most famous was the Batley Variety Club.
Your average Working Mens Club of that era would attract a regular crowd from its local streets, mainly of men, in fact through the weekday nights it would be only populated by men and usually only the bar would be open – the “bar” being reserved exclusively for men whilst the “lounge” would be for those unfortunate men who had been coerced into bringing their wives out with them, and even under these circumstances it would only be a matter of a few minutes before the menfolk sneaked off out of the lounge for the comfort of the men-only bar.
“Turns” on a weekend evening were the big attraction and Saturday night involved households in the locality being a hive of women activity as beehive hairdo’s were lacquered up or perms poked and prodded into shape until finally with their husbands standing at the back door tapping their watches and declaring that all the seats would have gone by now, the women of the town would emerge onto the streets and clik-clak their way through the cobbled lanes to “the Club” for a night of “getting kay-li’ed” and listening to a “Turn” who would only sound good after several Cherry-B’s or Babychams.
Batley Variety Club was a step up from this normality, for Batley Variety Club was a Theatre Club, a place where you only went for a treat, it had carpet on the floor for starters a thing unheard of in many Working Mens Clubs, carpet on the floor and instead of perching on hard vinyl covered stools around a small circular table all night long, at the Variety Club you sat in your own little “pod” on plush velvet benches, five couples to a circular “pod” with an open end facing the stage, hundreds of these “pods” arranged in tiered rows from the huge stage right to the back of the room – a wonder to behold.
But two remarkable things distinguished the Variety Club from the run-of-the-mill Working Mens Club, they fed you during the night, and they attracted the worlds top performing acts.
They had a dish that had been specially invented for the clubland audience – the ubiquitous chicken-in-a-basket, several small pieces of fried chicken and a pile of chips inside a raffia basket that was declared by all and sundry to be the height of sophistication and the highlight of the evening, people would not eat at all for 24 hours before visiting Batley Variety Club just so that they would enjoy their chicken-in-a-basket all the more.
For article # 1 CLICK HERE
For article # 2 CLICK HERE
For article # 3 CLICK HERE
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