Famous club says farewell as 4,000 turn out for final bash

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Emotional farewells have been paid to the Batley Frontier club after one last party was held before it closed.

The Bradford Road venue’s almost 50-year history as an entertainment spot ended on Saturday when around 4,000 punters turned out for a night of nostalgia.

The club was transformed into the Frontier by Derek Smith during the 1980s.

The club was transformed into the Frontier by Derek Smith during the 1980s.

Club manager Nick Westwell said: “It was all a blur. A phenomenal success – it was just mad crazy. It was a great end to 50 years.”

The venue, which started as the world famous Batley Variety Club in 1967, announced it would close earlier this month.

A new club, T-B-C, will open at the former Hitsville site at the junction of Bradford Road and Hick Lane in Batley tomorrow.

“It’s all go,” said Mr Westwell. “We’re working away like crazy but it will be ready.

Door staff at Batley Variety Club during the 1960s. Former general manager Allan Clegg is third from left.

Door staff at Batley Variety Club during the 1960s. Former general manager Allan Clegg is third from left.

“I think people will be in for a bit of a shock and a surprise because it has 40 years of experience going into it.”

But during the Frontier’s last night, people from the Variety Club days such as promotions officer Maureen Prest and manager Allan Clegg remembered old times.

Maureen, of Nutter Lane, Birstall, said afterwards: “It’s sad that it’s the end of its life as an entertainment venue. That place is part of the social history of Batley. I feel it’s sacrilege for it to be turned into a gym.”

She added: “In Batley back in the day, life was very grey. The mills were clattering away, the chimneys were churning out smoke – you couldn’t hang your washing out.

Tina Turner at Batley Variety Club early 70's

Tina Turner at Batley Variety Club early 70's

“It was a black and white world and it changed that significantly.”

During the Batley Variety Club’s heydey, owners James and Betty Corrigan hosted musical stars such as Roy Orbison, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Louis Armstrong, Tom Jones, Lulu and The Bee Gees. Mr and Mrs Corrigan, who later parted, have both since died.

Maureen said: “On reflection it was really a piece of social engineering because it changed people’s lifestyles and put happiness back into the place.

“wIt was a phenomenal thing for James to do.

Batley Variety Club owner James Corrigan pictured in the foyer with some photographs of the many stars that performed there.

Included are Cilla Black, Lulu, Roy Orbison, Morcambe and Wise and Louis Armstrong.

Batley Variety Club owner James Corrigan pictured in the foyer with some photographs of the many stars that performed there. Included are Cilla Black, Lulu, Roy Orbison, Morcambe and Wise and Louis Armstrong.

“There were no grants for this and grants for that.

“We were all part of a can-do generation.”

The Variety Club opened in 1967 and was changed into the Frontier by Derek Smith in the 1980s.

Since then it continued as a live music venue and ran club nights.

Gracie Fields greeted by her sister Edith Wakefield the night before she appeared at the club in 1968.

Gracie Fields greeted by her sister Edith Wakefield the night before she appeared at the club in 1968.