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.

 

 

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