We’re on the lookout for personal memories and memorabilia from the decade which saw the Working Men’s Club movement at the peak of its popularity.
Whole generations of the same family would enjoy nights out together with the local Working Men’s Club being the place to mark everything from christenings to marriages to funeral wakes.
The countrywide movement provided the testing ground for acts that went on to break through into the glitzy cabaret clubs of the 1970s and then, if they were lucky, adoring audiences on mainstream television.
‘New Faces’, ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and ‘Wheeltappers and Shunters’ were reliant on the Working Men’s Clubs for raw talent and inspiration and it’s unlikely pillars of 1980s light entertainment like Cannon & Ball, Les Dawson and Little & Large would have enjoyed their all-conquering success without the early support of Working Men’s Club audiences.
Fast forward four decades and it’s sadly a different story.
The movement was hit hard by the 2007 Smoking Ban.
Coupled with licensing deregulation and the rise of cheap alcohol in supermarkets, the movement has endured a massive downturn in its fortunes in recent years with membership in freefall and scores of venues shutting.
The ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to Working Men’s Clubs’ is set to celebrate the 1970s heyday of the movement that was the cornerstone of entertainment for hundreds of thousands of families up and down the country.
Bands, booze, bingo, strippers and club trips – the movement thrived in the un-pc decade characterised by strikes, go-go dancers and (some would say) misinformed fashion.
Author Neil Anderson said: “The Working Men’s Club scene was central to life for much of my family in the 1970s. I remember going to numerous celebrations there and the club trips to the coast were the stuff of legend for kids.
“The ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to Working Men’s Clubs’ is set to be a celebration of the golden years of the movement – I’m eager to speak to people that have memories of their own to share.”
The Working Men’s Clubs of the 1970s were a far cry from the ethos of the movement that was first founded over 150 years ago when Unitarian minister and teetotaling social reformer Henry Solly began to fret about the working men’s penchant for the “demon drink.”
He founded the Working Men’s Club as a place where blue-collar workers might escape the pull of the pub and find, instead, education, wholesome recreation and middle-class values.
It’s fair to say things didn’t really go as planned and, following the green light for clubs to supply alcohol at discounted prices, Working Men’s Club were offering booze far cheaper than the pubs!
The ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to Working Men’s Clubs’ is set to be published in 2017. Neil Anderson can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* And don’t forget to check out the excellent http://www.clubhistorians.co.uk/ by author of ‘Not Just Beer and Bingo! A Social History of Working Men’s Clubs’ Ruth Cherrington.