LETTER: Farewell to the Batley Frontier
Alan Clegg and Maureen Prest, former general manager and promotions manager at Batley Frontier Club, give their take on the closure of the iconic venue.
When the world was a little younger Alan and I were privileged to work for the most exciting venue in the North, the stars really did shine bright on our scruffy little mill town, of Batley, all thanks to the vision of the late great James Corrigan and his wife Betty; between them they produced the most amazing entertainment venue the country had ever seen.
It was so fantastic, it became internationally famous on both sides of the Atlantic!
Back in the day, Batley’s mill chimneys discharged so much smoke you could see the air coming to meet you!
The dress code was overalls and mill pinnies, everyone busy working, the mill girls often to be seen with hair curlers under a scarf known as a turban, glamorous it was not.
The Corrigans changed all that by building their club on a disused sewerage works, its clever design being big enough to attract a huge audience - so big they could afford to bring the world’s top stars to appear for the hard working people of the North; and more importantly at prices the people could afford.
Looking back, it was the cleverest piece of social engineering, for when the club opened to a cavalcade of stars, the club goers threw off the greasy mill clothes, getting dressed up to the nines to enjoy the most amazing night out, rubbing shoulders with the stars.
Nothing gave James Corrigan a greater kick than standing in the foyer and watching all the ladies in long evening gowns gliding into the club as if they were born again princesses.
James crossed the Atlantic to secure the biggest names in show business. The funniest story; when he went into the office of Louis Armstrong’s agent in an attempt to book him to play Batley, James told of how his club was so big with luxury facilities for the artistes etc.
He had a talent for charming the birds out of the trees. Eventually Louis’s agent turned to James, pulling a map out of his desk drawer and asking him to point on the map where exactly Batley, Yorkshire was.
After much scrutiny Batley was not on the map, much to James’s embarrassment; after much persuasion he did manage to book Louis Armstrong, and in doing so James Corrigan put Batley firmly on the map for ever more.
Alan and I are very proud to have played our part in the Batley Variety Club story.
There must be thousands who hold the fondest memories of that special venue.
We feel it would be fitting to have a permanent memorial to the late Mr and Mrs Corrigan, whose vision changed a scruffy little mill town into the Las Vegas of the North.
Perhaps your readers would make suggestions for a fitting permanent memorial to James and Betty.