Has club life gone?
I write this article to try and answer that question, remembering my childhood as the son of a Club Steward at the heart of a mining community now long gone! The Radcliffe Workmen’s Club And Institute Ltd, as it is still known today, situated at the bottom end of Amble, provided a place for the people of Amble to socialise after they moved from Radcliffe in the early seventies.
It was a place where miners and fishermen alike would sit with a pint, reading the local newspaper after a hard shift underground or at sea. The doors were never locked and it was open to all its members. Bingo, dominoes, crib, smoke-filled bars, the cries of “House!” from a lucky bingo winner. Sunday dinners left by the bar doors as women in those days dare not set foot in what was the men’s sanctuary of the bar, while whippets raced on the Lord Mayor’s field.
I remember the queues of people wrapping themselves around the walls of the building, waiting to get in, the wall of people constantly standing five deep at the bar. The concert chairman kicked the evening off and the artiste would sing with the typical mixed response from the audience, “Not him again!”, “Anything but Penny Arcade!”, “Turn it down, it’s too loud!” they’d cry. It was, in its day, the holiday place for many people in the North East. People flocked from the Toon, many by bus, walking like ants with their suitcases to their caravans and then into their second home, the club.
Unfortunately times have changed since then. Package holidays came about, the mining community disappeared and the supermarkets took off. Cheap alcohol, smoking bans, recessions, all had an impact on the clubs; those once self-sustaining, flourishing businesses were hit hard by it all. Today the Radcliffe is moving with the times. It still caters and provides entertainment for the long standing members. Families can come, enjoy an evening with their kids, dance with Deano the Dino and play games at the family nights. Patrons represent the club, playing darts, pool and dominoes in the local leagues, while the club plays host to St. Cuthbert’s F. C., one of Amble’s newly formed football teams.
As a business it openly encourages the entrepreneurs amongst you to come forward, share your ideas to help the club to flourish, it can offer a great deal more than just a place to drink, it can become the heart of a community again.
So has club life gone? I’d say not quite: it’s just diversified. Many of the old things that were done are still done but just in a more modern way. With the club approaching its fortieth anniversary in 2012 I invite people to share their memories of the place, whether they be past or present. I would also like to ask people if they can share with the club any pictures they might have, memorabilia, or stories for the forthcoming celebration. Maybe in another 40 years the same question will be asked again!