North Staffordshire Potteries Workingmen’s Clubs
Bill Cawley: “Peter Kay is not far out when portrays the strange acts at the Phoenix. I recall vividly the Pakistani stand up comedian who told racist jokes against himself, the asthmatic country and western act from Cleverley who stopped for breath half way through his act.” I’ll be with you in a moment “, or the overloud ear-ringing rock bands. Sometimes there were special events like a boxing tournament at the Suburban where one competitor eschewing the basic defensive stance advanced with arms flaying like a windmill to be quickly demolished by punishing jabs that opened his nose up in a crimson torrent. For the turns themselves there was recognition that there efforts were taken with proper regard. As local act Gerry Stephens writing of the time reportedSaturday was the highlight of the week and people would make an effort to look their best. The Committee officers ran them with a grip of iron and membership were as tightly controlled as any freemasons. Instant silence followed the command ” Give order please” and quiet was demanded- and got- when Bingo started. Bingo was a ritual with its language and actions especially when certain numbers were called out ” Ted’s den- Number Ten, Two fat ladies 88, Leg’s eleven” followed by wolf whistles and the clinking of glasses as pens were banging against them. Sometimes a frustrated gamester would call out to the elderly lady caller ” Shake them up, Elsie” if his numbers were not coming up.Then there were the turns.“You’d arrive outside the Club, grab your gear, and go in. The room would be completely empty. Then people start coming in; the room is packed, and it’s your job to entertain them for the night. You’ve only got your guitar, your voice and your patter, to get them going, gets them laughing.It was quite a thing to be an artist in the 70s, there was a lot of respect shown; the audience wasn’t allowed to come in or go out during a bracket”.But the knell- as it was for the working class- was already tolling for the clubs.”
Bill Cawley: “I was born in Stoke in 1955 and lived and worked in the City. I was a City Councillor from 82-7 and a County Councillor from 97-05. I’m a member of the Green party My heroes are Thomas Paine, HL Mencken, Tom Joad and Ernest Everard..,”
Talke’s, Newcastle-under-Lyme, North Staffordshire: Talke Social Club mid-1980’s & early ’90’s:
Joe Jones: Week end entertainment Talke Club. me dad would take me with him.the first room top of the steps think it was the lounge Jean worked behind the Bar me dad would sneak off 4 a game of snooker leave me with a box of chocolate raisons bottle of orange and a straw ..Jean looked after me kept topping me up with pop and crisps .NO CHILDREN ALLOWED IN THE GAMES ROOM.
Kristy Riley: My nan used to run the club lilly small and worked there afterwards and even when she retired she couldn’t help herself but to still help out was her life and soul that place so many memories of that place
Rachel Gloworm: Talke club, spent many a night there while my mum played bingo and john called the numbers fond memories.. but them bloody committee men thought they were something pmsl
Joe Jones: THE RAFFLE had a strip everyweek and won nowt ,but are Jim ,,Nicholes.. that is if you new him .won all the time i called him lucky Jim.. gallons of whiskey 3 on the trot ..open the box ..jackpot on the bandit ..full house bingo i alwasy sat next to him but is luck never rubbed off on me ,, RIP Jim good Dart player as well
Valerie Mchughyep: I remember talke club wish it was still here dad used to take me as a child then my kid as well being brought up in talke pits it was weekend treat. my dad was dave poole.
Neil Lambert: Nowt like Talke Club mate!
Rachel Gloworm: omg lilly, she was luvly she use to go to the end of the bar to pass me crips because i was only a little bit back then.. jean and lilly always had a greeting.
Danny Patrick Killeen: luv’d Lill – well nice to me! We worked the bar together on a Tuesday nite – ballroom dacin’ nite. she used to bring me a best-boiled-beef-sarnie with Stork lard in it .., althou’ not my kinda yankee Subway sandwich, I always really appreciated her kindness towards me! Always knew she had a wonderful working class Talke girl’s heart! miss her! Great woman ur Nan Kristy Riley!!!!!
Despite the educational ambitions, most working men’s clubs are recreational. Typically, a club would have a room, often referred to (especially in Northern England) as a vault with a bar for the sale and consumption of alcohol, snooker, pool or bar billiards tables, as well as televisions for sport entertainment; many provide food. A much larger room would be connected, often called the concert or entertainment room with a stage and a layout of tables, stools and backrest sofas. They often provide night time entertainment, mainly on the weekends such as bingo, raffles, live music cabaret and comedy, playing popular music. They are also known for their charitable works.
In recent years, declining membership has seen many clubs close down and others struggle to remain open. Some groups try to raise the profile of clubs, pointing to their historical legacies and their community roles.
A working men’s club is a non-profit organisation run by members through a committee, usually elected annually. Each club has rules that tend to be vigorously enforced. The committee will discipline members (common punishments being a warning, or a ban for a period) for violations. Despite the name, women are allowed to be members in many clubs, and virtually all clubs allow entry to women. Non-members are not allowed entry unless signed in by a member.