It was 50 years ago this month that Sheffield’s Fiesta Club first opened its doors.
The city had truly seen nothing like it.
And though the cabaret club was renowned for its palatial décor and Las Vegas-style glitz, it was probably just as well known for a simple dish that has taken on almost legendary status thanks to the way it was served.
Chicken-in-a-basket was the staple diet of audiences for the Fiesta’s decade long tenure – even though a far more sumptuous, á la carte menu was available in the venue’s upmarket restaurant.
The venue was the biggest nightclub in the whole of Europe when it opened.
Opened by Teesside brothers Jim and Keith Lipthorpe five years after opening their original Fiesta in Stockton, near Middlesborough, this venue truly changed the face of entertainment in the region.
They were originally inspired by their spell as semi-pro musicians in the 1950s and early 1960s and saw a big gap in the market for a more sophisticated brand of entertainment in post-war Britain.
Sheffield had never seen anything like the £500,000, purpose-built entertainment Mecca that was erected on the side of Arundel Gate facing the area now known as Tudor Square.
Employment at the Fiesta became the most sought after jobs anywhere.
One former member of staff said: “I absolutely loved working there. It was how I imagined London or Las Vegas to be at the time. I got to meet so, so many big names.
“I saw so many acts perform. Tommy Cooper was always a big hit with the audiences. But he could be a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character depending on whether he’d had a drink or not – and he really liked a drink. He’d regular turn up with an entire holdall of it.
“I remember Alvin Stardust being the epitome of charm to everyone. In fact before his show he’s regularly give all of the bar staff a single red rose. He’d then get up and perform with that black leather glove on. What a showman!”
The Fiesta opened with massive fanfare and helped make household names of local stars like Marti Caine and Bobby Knutt that both headlined the venue.
The venue’s opulence was in keeping with the confidence in the city at the time.
The early 1970s was a good time to be in Sheffield. There was full employment and any thoughts of Meadowhall would have been laughed off the High Street.
Its retail offering was then one of the best in the North of England with big independent names like Cockaynes, Walsh’s, Redgates, Pauldens and more.
The Fiesta boasted tiered seating, waitress service, lamps on the table – no expense was spared at the glitzy venue.
In Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons described it as: “The best club I have ever worked in”. The Four Tops said it was by far the “best club in Europe”.
- We’ve just launched a full range of merchandise to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the venue.