MORE THAN WORDS with North East poet Keith Armstrong

I’m standing at the bar in The Bridge Hotel in Newcastle waiting for poet and writer Keith Armstrong. If you imagine someone looking like the actor Bill Nighy, you’re not far wrong. He breezes in and before you know it we are sitting in a quiet corner and after his first sip of cider he tells me a story…

I took the train down to London with a mate of mine, it was 1977. We had third row tickets for the Rainbow Theatre to see Bob Marley and the Wailers. We were frisked as we went in, everyone was, but through a heavy fog of ganja smoke we saw a fantastic show. He had such a presence on stage. It was pretty much the best concert I’ve been to in my life.

First time I travelled abroad was in 1966. I went with a friend, we took a Melody Maker trip to the Berlin Jazz Festival. Flew over there then got a coach past Checkpoint Charlie to the venue. It was afternoon gigs, avant garde stuff and the big jazz guys of the day like Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins were on the bill. We got back to London and walking down Carnaby Street we bumped into two of the Beach Boys who we went to see in concert that night at Hammersmith Odeon.

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What is your background ? I was born and bred in Newcastle and my father worked in the shipyards. Absolutely steeped in the tradition. School days were spent at Heaton Grammar and it taught me to be a rebel because I couldn’t stand the confinement of the place. Just being edgy, wanting things to change – haven’t lost it.

First job I ever had was at Newcastle University Library I got paid 6 pounds 14 shillings and threepence a week. I was always bookish at school so libraries was good to get into. Plus I was the only boy amongst 15 women librarians – I learnt a lot. Gateshead College was another library I worked at in the early ‘70s. Within that I was developing an interest in the arts and arranged events with poets and theatre. From 1980-86 I was a Community Arts worker in Peterlee, County Durham then went freelance as a writer. I was glad to escape the 9 to 5 into an alternative prison of freelance (laughs).

I was interested in people like Dylan Thomas, the rhythm of his poetry. Actors like Richard Harris, hell raisers like Oliver Reed – all good role models! Yeah in my early days I loved the old bohemian lifestyle of reading poetry and getting tanked up (laughs). Listening to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, they were all there and I wrote poetry but always felt that I wanted to make them song-like. That’s why I ended up working with Gary Miller and The Whisky Priests. (Featured on the blog March 23rd 2019).

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Keith with North East musician Gary Miller.

How did that come about ? I was writing lyrics and I see very little difference in poetry to song lyrics. Around the early ‘90s I cottoned on to The Whisky Priests. I was looking for a band that had an edge, a bit of anger, you know a bit of an attitude. Also one steeped in the working class tradition of the North East. So I asked this guy Ross Forbes who was press officer at the NUM and he mentioned The Whisky Priests. I found they were playing at The Rose Tree in Durham. I went along and I knew this was what I was after, even I got up dancing (laughs).

It was really important for me and my poetry as it’s a different audience for what I write. And they weren’t playing in just the backroom of a Folk Club. They were taking it forward, for a younger audience. We also travelled a bit to Germany, Holland and Ireland. I always admired the fact Gary could write songs and was quite prolific about it as seen on The Whisky Priests anthology box set. But yeah I wrote some lyrics, they recorded Bleeding Sketches and it came out in 1995.

 

What does writing mean to you ? When I do write it’s to express my emotions and follow my heart. That’s why I like Gary Miller because he is like that. We worked on a project together called The Mad Martins. They were three brothers one of which has his paintings in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. I researched the story and asked Gary to write some stuff for it, that’s how it kicked off. It’s a special story that we put out on a triple CD. But writing, I couldn’t live without it.

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What you working on now ? Well I’m just forcing myself to write at the minute. Emotionally I’m a bit sapped with things going on around me you know, personal stuff. There are plans to go out to Tuebingen near Stuttgart with Northumbrian piper Chris Ormston as part of a Cultural Exchange arranged with County Durham. That’ll be in July. Originally they sent me over there in ‘87 as Poet in Residence and I’ve been going back there ever since. Then in October it’s same again for Limerick over in Ireland, fell in love with the place and they keep inviting me back.

But I could still be reading my poetry to 10 people in the back room of a pub in Penrith. Why do it ? I don’t know. But I’m keeping my options open (laughs).

Interview by Gary Alikivi April 2019.

ROKSNAPS #7 – Snap Happy

Roksnaps are photograph’s taken by fan’s which captured the atmosphere of concert’s in the North East during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. T-shirt’s, programme’s and autograph’s were hunted down to collect as souvenier’s – and some people took photograph’s on the night. One fan who kept his photo’s and shared them on the blog is Martin Blank…

Like many fans at the time, I liked to leave a gig with as many souvenirs as I could whether it be a T-shirt, scarf, badge, programme or poster. If very lucky, maybe a plectrum, drumstick or even a sweaty towel used by the band and thrown into the crowd. If it was a band I was keen on I would sometimes record a gig, although this was greatly frowned upon at the time by record companies worried that the recording would appear on a bootleg LP and rob them of potential sales. Funnily enough recording gigs and photographing bands seems to be encouraged nowadays.

Cassette-recorders in the ‘70s were rather bulky and therefore trying to get into a venue with a huge bulge under your coat was no mean feat. I can’t describe the joy of leaving a venue knowing that you had the gig on tape which could then be relived in the privacy of your bedroom. Even better was taking photos because no other pic’s from the gig would be identical to the ones you’d taken.

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Captain Sensible of The Damned outside Newcastle City Hall in 1977.

The first camera I got was an instamatic and the first gig I took it to was T.Rex at Newcastle City Hall in ‘77. For reasons I can’t remember I didn’t take any photos of support band The Damned but straight after they left the stage I went outside and who walks past but none other than Captain Sensible. I fumbled around in a desperate attempt to find my camera in hope of getting a few candid snaps of The Captain. Shoving my camera under his nose I asked him if it would be OK to take a few photos. ‘Of course’, he said with a big grin on his face. As I was happily snapping away, hardly believing my luck as he was striking just about every pose known to man, in jumped a group of punks. One of them was carrying The Damned’s debut album. I asked if there would be any chance of getting a few photos of the rest of the band. The Captain went in the stage door and a couple of minutes later appeared with vocalist Dave Vanian looking like he’d just walked off the set of the latest Hammer Horror film.

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Pauline Murray vocalist with North East punks Penetration at the Newcastle University 1978.

The next gig I took my camera to was the Stuff The Jubilee event at The Guildhall featuring The Adverts, Penetration, The Big G and an unknown band from Manchester called Warsaw. Regrettably, I was so excited watching the bands that I totally forgot to take any photos. Warsaw, of course, were soon to change their name to Joy Division and did rather well for themselves. On that night they came across as a rather poor run-of-the-mill Punk band. So bad that somebody commented, ‘They’re so bad they’re good.

My brother had a better camera, a Zenith which he would sometimes let me borrow. Whereas with an instamatic camera it was basically sheer luck whether or not you got a good photo or just an abstract-looking blur, with an SLR (single lens reflex) you could focus, alter the aperture which was great when the stage lighting was poor and even zoom-in. Taking photos at The Mayfair, Uni or Poly was easy as nobody was bothered but the City Hall had a strict ‘no photos’ policy. Some stewards were OK with it and would let you go to the front of the stage to get a few pics providing you were very quick. Loitering around the stage snapping away could get you dragged back to your seat or, even worse, thrown out.

 

The advantage of many Punk gigs was that they took place at the Uni, Poly or in pubs which meant you could get really up-close. Several times I got disparaging looks from a member of a band: ‘Get that fuc*ing camera out of my face’. Of course, there was always the risk of your camera being damaged in the frenzy of a Punk gig but it was always worth taking the chance.

Sometimes when I show the photos to kids who are into Punk nowadays they’re amazed. It’s a bit like they’re seeing photos of the Second World War or something, ‘Omg, you were actually there!‘ I guess it’s one thing seeing photos in a book, magazine or on a website but to actually handle the originals gives them some sort of connection to the past. I’ve been offered considerable sums of money for some of the photos but I wouldn’t sell any of them as I occasionally like to dig them out and reminisce about how great it was to be a teenager in the ‘70s.

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Generation X, Newcastle University 1978.

Interview by Gary Alikivi, April 2019.

Recommended:

Roksnaps #1 Feb 18th 2018.

Roksnaps #2 Feb 22nd 2018.

Roksnaps #3 Feb 17th 2018.

Roksnaps #4 April 4th 2018.

Roksnaps #5 June 20th 2018.

Roksnaps #6 March 30th 2019.

BOLD AS BRASS with North East musician and former Lindisfarne sax man Marty Craggs

When I first started playing sax there weren’t that many sax players on the Newcastle scene but now I think the sax has become more popular and it’s good to see and hear all these great young jazz musicians taking up the sax, they can really play!

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When did you first get interested in music and who were your influences ?  I was born in Newcastle on the banks of the river Tyne. My Grandma played the harmonica and the piano, rumour has it that she could rock! I started piano lessons at the age of 9 but wasn’t until I was 15 when I really woke up to music. I saw the Rolling Stones on Top of the Pops. Blown away!

The first record I bought was Whatcha Gonna Do About It by the Small Faces then started listening to The Beatles and The Yardbirds until I discovered the blues with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and John Mayall. By 1967 it was Motown and Junior Walker.

Then I got into the Stax sound with James Brown, Sam & Dave, Booker T & the MG’s, just all soul music and finally bought a saxophone.

When and where did you start gigging ? I joined my first soul band at the age of 18, The Georgia Quintet. Got into their brass section of two saxes and a trumpet, great guys, still friends with them all today.

Those early years I gigged the local scene with many bands. We went to all the social clubs, school dances, universities. It was great fun learning the ropes and gathering experience.

In ‘75 I joined Harcourts Heroes with Ray Jackson and Charlie Harcourt. They were a crackin’ band. By ‘78 I had moved to London and formed a band called The Breakers with Charlie Foskett and Maggie Luckley. We got a deal with MAM Records and recorded in Broadoak Studio in Brighton. We done a couple of tours, one supporting Darts. Great band, nice folk’s it was all good craic! But London got too big for me, so I came home to Newcastle.
I met up with Ray Laidlaw, Rod Clements, Jed Grimes, Billy Mitchell and Steve Cunningham who had a crackin’ band called Pacamax. I joined them and had so much fun, this was around 1980. We played all the festivals and folk clubs.

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How did the gig with Lindisfarne come about ? The call from Ray Laidlaw to join Lindisfarne came in 1983. We spent many happy days touring the world and recording with the band. I played sax, flute and vocals on the Amigos album and sung lead vocal on Roll on that Day, co-written with Rod Clements. I also co-wrote Everything Changes with Alan Hull. We used the Reel Time Studio in Newcastle.

Lindisfarne have a large back catalogue of recorded music…Yes I was also on the Here Comes the Nieghbourhood album in ‘98. We went into the Watercolour Studio, in Ardgour, Scotland to record that one. Again I added whistle, harmonica, accordion and vocals. I also recorded lead vocal for one of my own songs Driftin’ Through. The album was produced by Sid Griffin.

Elvis Lives on the Moon was recorded in Newcastle’s High Level Studio by Kenny Craddock, he is sadly missed. Dance Your Life Away was recorded and produced by Steve Daggett at Impulse Studio in Wallsend. We also recorded Buried Treasures and Live and Acoustic.

In 1990 the band achieved a UK top 3 single with the most famous footballer at the time, former Newcastle & England player Paul Gascoigne…. We had great fun with Gazza and his version of Fog on the Tyne. I co-wrote that with Alan Hull. It was all good until the sad and untimely death of Alan in 1995. Alan was a big influence on me both as a friend and a song writer. I was privileged to write a couple of songs with him, it was great to watch him work. He was a prolific songwriter, great performer and a cool guitar player too, just loved his Strat playing.

Looking back all the gig’s and tours with Lindisfarne were memorable especially at Newcastle City Hall. But by 2000 I had left and with Les Dodd and Brian Duffy we formed a band called The Happy Cats. After joining Lindisfarne I started touring and gigging the folk clubs and festivals discovering a whole new world of music on the folk scene. I did some gigs in Ireland and started listening to Irish Celtic music. I loved the celtic sound of fiddles, flutes, accordion, acoustic guitars and whistle all taking the melody.

This got me listening to John Prine, Mary Black, Dalores Keen and of course the Saw Doctor’s. I joined an Irish band called the ShyTots based in North Shields where I learned to play the Bodhran, a great band full of fun. This was the thinking behind The Happy Cats, a celtic sounding band, with a big emphasis on fun.

Over the years I have picked up new instruments as and when the songs required them. Now I’m playing sax, flute, harmonica, bodhran, accordion and whistle. Also found myself singing more these days and enjoying the music.

Did you record with The Happy Cats ? Yeah we made three albums and gigged for 17 years. Fans became our friends, the Toon to Tuam tours were infamous, mighty craic in County Galway (laughs). We recorded our debut album Follow the Moon at Watercolour Music Studio, Ardgour, Scotland. It was produced and mixed by Micky Sweeney. I sang lead vocal on all tracks and played sax, whistle, harmonica and accordion. Rachael Bailey added fiddle and Michael Bailey was on bass guitar. The Take my Hand album was recorded at Cluny Studio, Newcastle where I sang lead vocal on all tracks.

For Ten Years On we went into Charltons Studio in Cambois to record. That was mixed and mastered in Blast Studio here in Newcastle. I played sax, flute, whistle, harmonica, accordion and sang lead vocal on all tracks. Again Mickey Sweeney produced that record. But sadly The Happy Cats split up in December 2017.

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Marty Craggs Little Band Jam.

What are you doing now ? Paul Alex Campbell (ex Christian’s) and I have been writing and recording for our band the Unexpected Visitors. A fantastic 6 piece band, that rocks. We’ve already done a few gigs and hope to release our debut album this year. Also been gigging with my old pal Trevor Sewell, an award winning guitar player. It’s 50 years since we were on stage together, it’s been a blast.

These are busy times because we, Steve Dolder (drums) Dave Whiffin (guitar) and Michael Bailey (bass) put together a celtic/Irish influenced 4 piece band called Marty Craggs Little Band Jam. We are playing songs from the Lindisfarne and Happy Cats days, plus adding some good cover songs. We guarantee 100% full on sing-along night out. The Lindisfarne Festival Thursday 29th July 2019 is a date for your diary. I would like to thank my right hand man and Roadie No1, Alan Loughhead, for all his support and help. Top man.

What does music mean to you ? Music is my life, it’s what makes me tick. I’m constantly writing songs and gigging. Still as enthusiastic about everything to do with the business as I was back in 1966. I’m so lucky and blessed to still be able to do it! Luckiest boy!

In 2016 I got together with my son Andrew and daughter Beverley, both great musicians and singers, and we realised that after all these years we hadn’t played or performed together. So we wrote and recorded The Craggs Family Album recorded at Broadoak Studio in Brighton and Blueattic Studio in Hexham. All mixed and mastered at Blast Studio, Newcastle. The project was a wonderful time and a great thing to do, a very proud Dad.

Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2019.

 

 

 

 

WHEN MILLER MET CUNNY documentary about workingmen’s clubs

During late 2015 I made a documentary about workingmen’s clubs on South Tyneside and  most of the filming took place in the Royal British Legion Club in South Shields. After initial research I approached Club Steward Pam Carrol about filming in the club ‘What will be your best time ? I’d like to film when there is some entertainment on’. Expecting a Friday or Saturday night she returned with ‘No son, Monday is best. We’ve got a singer on and an afternoon bingo session. The club will be packed’. It was, and musician Alan Knights provided the entertainment.

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Wayne Miller and Iain Cunningham, still picture taken from the ‘Home from Home’ documentary 2015.

Included is a transcript of the interview with two of the contributor’s to the documentary, North East actor’s Wayne Miller and Iain Cunningham, both regulars on stage at The Customs House theatre, South Shields. A couple of points (or pints) before the stories, filming had to be stopped a few times because I was laughing so hard and if you don’t speak Geordie it’s written in the Tyneside dialect.

Miller: We were part of a travelling pantomime company that did the club’s for 15 years.

Cunny: Yes 1997 we started. We were just bairns.

Miller: Yeah just young bairns from college drafted in to do touring panto that we thought was a one year thing ended up being 15 years. It was a great training ground for us as actor’s.

Cunny: Really is where you learn your trade, where you don’t know what to expect. Was always fun to do. One thing I didn’t realise was how important it was to the people at the clubs you know the whole family day out sort of thing. They save’d up and it was a big deal wasn’t it. The kid’s always got a selection box, the dad always got a beer.

Miller: Mam always got a Babycham.

Cunny: Ya know no expense spared.

Miller: Yeah you are right it was that big massive day out all the kid’s dressed up in their Christmas outfits and Santa of course. All the club’s provided a Santa to come out after the pantomime. Which always reminds me of the story when the concert chairman came in he was like ‘Lad’s, lad’s, we’ve got Santa comin’ in right, so if you tell us when the panto is ending we’ll bring out Santa, kid’s are gonna love it, they’ll gae crackers’. I said alright mate it generally runs for this length of time, we’ll defeat the villain then we’re gonna sing Reach for the Stars. If you listen for that then get Santa ready to come out.

Cunny: We’ll make a big deal of it, a massive thing so all the kid’s get very excited shouting yeah Santa.

Wayne: That was the plan.

Cunny: It was.

Wayne: Lo’ and behold we defeated the villain and right boys and girls were gonna sing Reach for the Stars now so if you’d like to get on yer feet and… where you goin’ where you goin’ !

Cunny: There was a jingle and right at the back there was Santa.

Miller: 400 kid’s just get up off the floor and run towards the back. We’re just singin’ Reach for the Stars in front of this only kid that’s scared of Santa and is cryin’ his eyeball’s out.

Cunny: Christmas Eve show’s were brilliant. The excitement.

Miller: Yeah they knew it was comin’. Santa’s on his way. But come Boxing Day it was like chalk n cheese.

Cunny: Nobody wanted to be there. Including us. To be fair me and Miller had to go on and whip the crowd up to a frenzy, get them joining in. Remember doing one club in Gateshead and I came running on first, the music started I shouted Hiya gang. I looked out and the kid’s were (looking down) just playing with the new toy they had brought.

On concert chairmen…

Miller: Going in the club the concert chairman would greet ya’… ‘I’ll show ya’ round the club lad’s, show yer round the club. There’s yer stage, there’s yer stage right. See that…that’s yer organ.

Both together: Can’t move that. Nah can’t move that.

Miller: There’s the drumkit ower there.

Both together: Can’t move that. Nah can’t move that.

Miller: So do you think yer’d get yer set on there ?

Cunny: Most of the time we couldn’t. We’d have to scale it down to one bit of scenery and a cloth. And the dressing rooms. Every dressing room ya’ can gaurentee some turn would have wrote a note on the wall.

Miller: Turn back lad’s. Unplug yer gear. Get in the van and get yersel away.

Cunny: Yeah don’t bother. It’s rubbish here.

On the demise of the workingmen’s clubs…

Miller: It is quite sad and people aren’t goin’ in and learning their craft. Like group’s, singer’s, acoustic act’s, stand up comedians.

Cunny: There is no better place to learn.

Miller: Comedy isn’t in the club’s anymore it’s going into the theatre’s, upstair’s of pub’s. You are seeing now comedian’s don’t know how to handle a crowd. That’s what the club give ya’.

Cunny: Yeah they don’t know how to handle the drunk man hecklin’ them (laughs).

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‘Home from Home’ 25mins (2016).

Narrated by Tom Kelly. Music by Derek Cajaio.

9min edit at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSBp5XD242U

 Interview by Gary Alikivi.

 

 

WHEN JOE MET MAD DOG – documentary about workingmen’s clubs

In late 2015 I made a documentary about workingmen’s clubs on South Tyneside and  most of the filming took place in the Royal British Legion Club in South Shields. After initial research I approached Club Steward Pam Carrol about filming in the club ‘What will be your best time ? I’d like to film when there is some entertainment on’. Expecting a Friday or Saturday night she returned with ‘No son, Monday is best. We’ve got a singer on and an afternoon bingo session. The club will be packed’. It was, and musician Alan Knights provided the entertainment.

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Michael ‘Mad Dog’ Davis and Joe Peterson in the Royal British Legion, South Shields 2015.

Included is a transcript of the interview with two contributor’s to the documentary, North East club entertainer’s Michael ‘Mad Dog’ Davis and Joe Peterson, both regulars in the club. A couple of points (or pints) before the stories, the filming had to be stopped a few times because I was laughing so hard and if you don’t speak Geordie it’s written in the Tyneside dialect.

 Joe: I tell yer what they used to do, they used to bring their own food.

Mad Dog: They still dae it.

Joe: They bring cheese, crackers things to eat put them out on the table and they would share.

Mad Dog: And everyone used to have their own seat. You can’t seat in that seat. You go into a strange club and sit in a seat. You can’t sit there that’s Harry’s seat. He isn’t here. Doesn’t matter. That’s Jackie’s seat. You can’t sit there. And big fight’s if yer did.

 Joe: We were in the club’s for a long time but the ‘70s were different where there was a boom  and there was money to be made an’ I remember people from mechanics to taxi drivers deciding to play instruments and do stuff on stage, to go and make a living.

Mad Dog: It was yer apprenticeship that’s what it was.

Joe: For the young un’s aye.

Mad Dog: You find out now that everyone who done that apprenticeship in the clubs are a different type of musician that you have now.

Joe: A lot of them in the North East, good players start in the clubs and learnt the trade. It was one of the most hardest club area’s in the country, it was renowned for it. So if you could do it here.

Mad Dog: Same with comedians, any top comedian probably started off on the club’s first. Then the good one’s went onto bigger things.

Joe: We used to have regular meeting places like The Crown at Tyne Dock which is a bingo hall but a nightclub as well. Often we’d go there after gig’s and there’d be a musician’s scene. There was so much work about people were working most nights you’d finish a gig and end up there. If yer were a bit of a distance you would hurry to get back for a couple of pints in The Crown.

Mad Dog: We’re talking Tuesday or Wednesday night you could have 10-15 people playing on stage who made it back to The Crown after their show. There used to be a resident duo of organ and drums, next thing you know there’s a guitar, bass, three singers, brass section. Everybody heading back to The Crown.

Joe: After that everybody head off to..

Mad Dog: The Shah Jan

Joe: Yeah The Shah Jan for a curry. It was renowned. The room was full of musicians.

Mad Dog: I counted once,  in a year I had a curry 7 days a week (laughs).

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On concert chairmen…

Joe: The thing about the concert chairmen is looking back now they were down to earth solid fella’s, lot of them tradesmen.

Mad Dog: Managers in the dock’s.

Joe: Aye in the dock’s, shipyards, then they were part of an entertainment night with a microphone in front of them and Ladies and Gentlemen. Things they weren’t used to. So as musicians we used to look from the outside in and think that’s crazy. Someone with experience just wouldn’t do.

Mad Dog: They’d get a microphone, and the bingo’s on. They used to have sockets on the wall that you plug into the house system and on many occasion the microphone hasn’t worked so they actually started talking into the hole in the wall (laughs).

Joe: Once there was a whistle noise in the background from the p.a and they were trying to find out where the noise was coming from. We had a listen to our speakers it’s not our gear. Then someone in the lounge shouted up to the concert room where’s that feedback come from, what’s that whistle ? And the concert chairman put the microphone to his ear well it’s not our gear (laughs).

On the demise of the workingmen’s clubs…

Mad Dog: The cheapest place in town to drink was the social club and it still is in some of them. Don’t think the kid’s these day’s follow in their father’s footsteps like we did in our era. But it was things like the no smoking, wasn’t a community thing anymore, karaoke, all little things together. Cos it used to be a live thing, you’d go to clubs to watch a live band.

Joe: What’s different about now is people were out most nights. Now it’s once or twice but then there was things on most nights and if there wasn’t you could sit in the lounge with family.

Mad Dog: If yer travel around there used to be thousands of club’s and now there is so many boarded up and haven’t made it. They haven’t moved on, they haven’t tried to change.

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‘Home from Home’ 25mins (2016).

Narrated by Tom Kelly. Music by Derek Cajaio.

9min edit available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSBp5XD242U

Interview by Gary Alikivi.

WHEN NED MET JACK – documentary about workingmen’s clubs

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Ned Kelly and Jack Berry in the Royal British Legion Club, South Shields 2015.

During late 2015 I made a documentary about workingmen’s clubs on South Tyneside and  most of the filming took place in the Royal British Legion Club in South Shields. After initial research I approached Club Steward Pam Carrol about filming in the club ‘What will be your best time ? I’d like to film when there is some entertainment on’. Expecting a Friday or Saturday night she returned with ‘No son, Monday is best. We’ve got a singer on and an afternoon bingo session. The club will be packed’. It was, and musician Alan Knights provided the entertainment.

Included is a transcript of the interview with two contributor’s to the documentary, former North East club entertainer’s Ned Kelly and Jack Berry, both regulars in the club. A couple of points (or pints) before the stories, the filming had to be stopped a few times because I was laughing so hard and if you don’t speak Geordie it’s written in the Tyneside dialect.

Ned: There was plenty o’ work and we used to do 10 shows a week. Sunda’ to Sunda’ then put in a niteclub an’ that to make up to 10 show’s ya knaa. It was non stop. I’ve seen us finish after a 10 day run for one of the most famous agents in the world. A guy called Andy Green, ex Sergeant Major. He’d put us in starting at Dalkeith just before Edinburgh, the last show was Fraserburgh right up on the coast. Then the next next day was at Swansea. Next job was Germany so we had to go to Harwich to catch a ferry to Zeebrugge then up through Holland.

Jack: Aye that bloody time we were in Wales. We were in Neath, is that right ?

Ned: Swansea.

Jack: We were in Swansea and he say’s I’m gaan to put pigeons in the piana. This is 10 o’ clock in the morning. He bought some pigeon food, coaxing the pigeons alang, took his coat off, managed to get a few of them. Straight back to the club, lifted the lid up of the piana put the pigeons in. This is about half past eleven time. Buggered off back to the digs, then come back about 7 o’clock (for the show). Aal you cud hear was coo, coo, coo. Anyway lifts the lid up the pigeons fly oot they’re shyting aal ‘ower the audience, on their claes, in their booze. The curtains are shut, they’re trying to open them to open the winda’s. Well the mare they wu’ flappin’ the mare they wu’ shyting.

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Ned: It was the 70s Gary and it was one of the Giovanni’s big do’s at a restaurant. They were al’ scrap men. It was Christmas time and the scrap yards were shuttin’ for the Christmas and New Year period. There was a buffet on, a big long table full of gear. They brought their dogs and tied them to the railings on the bar cos you can’t leave dog’s near food. There was Bulldogs, Alsations, Rottweilers al’ kinds and they’re al’ gaan for each other. Well they’re shakin’ and there’s oil an’ diesel aal ower the place, it stunk. It was like midnight at Minsky’s.

We had to gaan up stairs to get changed and bein’ a restaurant there was a geet big fridge where they put aal the gear ya knaa, the ducks, fillet steaks, aal kinds, and there was this great side of beef. You’ve seen the lorries getting loaded with the beef and the two legs on the front. We said what we’ll dae is nick the side of beef, chop it up at yem and share it oot.

(Pointing at Jack) He filled his guitar case full of ducks and steaks but we thought How we going to get the beef out the door past the doorman ? I said what we’l dae is put an overcoat on him and if a doorman say’s owt we’ll say it’s the roadie he’s pissed. That’s exactly what we done. We walked a side of beef oot the door past the doorman and put it in the back of the van. Next morning everyone had choppers choppin’ chunks of beef off it was great. He finished off aal the ducks and never shared with anyone. I shared my fillets with everyone yea never give anything.

Jack: Yea bugger I never got the chance cos the bloke phoned up and said all the meat was condemned.

005

Bingo in session at the Royal British Legion, South Shields (pic from the documentary).

Jack: A club in Darlington right. Get’s in there. Five nights. On the last night, now bearing in mind the bloke who owned the place put a new glass stage on with lights comin’ up ya knaa.

Ned: Aye. I remember it.

Jack: Aye. We asked the fella in charge can I put this piana on fire? The roadie will come on and put a sprinklin’ of lighter oil on. For wu’ encore wu’ll do Great Balls of Fire. Ya knaa’ Goodness gracious great balls of… then flick the lighter. The keyboard will go up but I said the roadie will be ready with the fire extinguisher.

Well he went an’ put the whole bloody tin on it! Flicked the lighter an’ it’s a blaze. They’re all bloody killin’ themselves in the audience they think it’s part of the show. The band are standin’ like tatties, his fingers are on fire. So I shoved the piana like that (kicks leg out). It went straight through his new glass stage. Polystyrene tiles up a height are al’ bloody comin’ doon. The cortins are alight an’ everything. When all the flames were put oot ya’ shuda seen the state of that stage. He (Ned) said well you’re the man for the money kid gaan get paid (laughs).

Ned: Yeah looked like he was gonna bost yer face.

Jack: I said who do I see to get paid ? Paid !He said. Are you stupid you’ve caused £10,000 pound worth of damage (laughs).

On the demise of the workingmen’s clubs…

Ned: No smoking started it.

Jack: It didn’t ya knaa. In the ‘80s the debacle between Thatcher and Scargill, the miners strike God knaa’s what. You gotta remember that in Scotland there was loads of miner’s welfare clubs. A lot of them shut doon. A lot of them shut in this country. I think that was the beginning of the end. And then is what you said kid.

Ned: In those day’s most people smoked, nearly everybody smoked. The majority of the club’s were upstairs in them ‘50s style buildings. They would come aal the way doonstairs for a couple of puffs off a tab, then aal the way back up the stairs. And gettin’ aulder they were knackered they couldn’t dae it anymore. They started shutting concert rooms first, finish the act’s, ring the agents, not enough people in.

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‘Home from Home’ 25mins (2016).

Narrated by Tom Kelly. Music by Derek Cajaio.

9min edit available at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSBp5XD242U&t=8s&fbclid=IwAR2cbMn0A8aLDPe2Ps725KbTitCwmfsYVVzZLsdjkzO55WJDC-8eht8lhrQ

Interview by Gary Alikivi.