Locarno Ballroom and Mecca

By Simon Mortimer

Locarno Ballroom and Mecca. Photo taken in 1961
Stevenage Museum. P6815
This page was added on 07/01/2011.

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  • Thursday night was for 15 to 17 year olds if my memory serves me well. My mates and I would patrol around the balcony that went through a tunnel over the stage. Fun times.

    By Phil (13/01/2024)
  • Certainly the Rolling Stones played the Locarno, just a few weeks before their first biggie. Probably around 1961/2, ‘cos I wasn’t yet brave enough to engage with the opposite sex, and had to make do with watching the band!

    I know the Stones were there before national fame – we hadn’t yet invented the ubiquitous mods with their duck’s ar*e parkas, scooters with dozens of lights, and fox tails hanging from the aerial on the back. The Beatles were still a few weeks away from stardom.

    Coffee Cabin – we all used to gather there on weekend nights, find out where the party was, and have a great night out. If you wanted to clear the Cabin, the juke box had just the record – Dave Brubeck (jazz!!!) and “It’s a raggy waltz”.

    Characters around and about at that time:- The impersonator of Steed (the Avengers on tv) who took to always wearing a cape and carrying a fancy stick.

    By richard hawker (28/11/2023)
  • List of Acts who played at Stevenage Locarno.

    Locarno – Stevenage
    Come Dancing – Mecca Dancing
    Open for dancing every night except Tuesday – Bingo
    7-11 pm Wednesday Admission 6/- Big Beat

    February Line Up
    Gerry & The Pacemakers
    Chris Andrews
    The Overlanders
    The Spencer Davis Group

    28 Jan 66

    Locarno – Stevenage 1965 – 1967 Dances

    Sun 31Mar 63 The Barron Knights – –
    Wed 10 Jul 63 The Tremeloes – –
    Wed 06 Jan 65 Dave Dee & The Bostons 2/6d (7-11 pm)
    Thu 14 Jan 65 THE WHO – –
    Wed 27 Jan 65 Bern Elliott & The Fenmen – –
    Wed 28 Jul 65 The Ivy League 5/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 11 Aug 65 Goldie & The Gingerbreads – –
    Wed 18 Aug 65 The Fourmost – –
    Wed 25 Aug 65 Lulu & The Luvvers 5/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 08 Sep 65 THE HOLLIES – –
    Wed 15 Sep 65 The Searchers – –
    Wed 22 Sep 65 The Pretty Things – –
    Wed 06 Oct 65 Dave Berry & The Cruisers 5/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 20 Oct 65 Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames – –
    Thu 11 Nov 65 The Barron Knights – (7-11 pm)
    Wed 24 Nov 65 The Animals – –
    Wed 01 Dec 65 The Swinging Blue Jeans 5/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 15 Dec 65 THE MOODY BLUES – –
    Wed 29 Dec 65 MANFRED MANN – –
    Wed 02 Feb 66 Gerry & The Pacemakers 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 09 Feb 66 Chris Andrews 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 16 Feb 66 The Overlanders 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 23 Feb 66 The SPENCER DAVIS GROUP 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Fri 08 Apr 66 TOM JONES & The Squires 8/6d (Easter Midnight Ball)
    Wed 25 May 66 Georgie Flame & The Blue Flames 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 01 Jun 66 The Mindbenders 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 08 Jun 66 The Pretty Things 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 15 Jun 66 The Merseys 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 22 Jun 66 Roy C 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 29 Jun 66 The Alan Price Set 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 06 Jul 66 The SMALL FACES 6/- (7.30-11.30 pm)
    Wed 13 Jul 66 The TROGGS 6/- (7.30-11.30 pm)
    Wed 20 Jul 66 Soloman Burke 6/- (7.30-11.30 pm)
    Wed 27 Jul 66 Paul & Barry Ryan 6/- (7.30-11.30 pm)
    Wed 03 Aug 66 Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – –
    Wed 17 Aug 66 Jimmy James & The Vagabonds 6/- (7-11 pm)
    Wed 07 Sep 66 THE WHO – –
    Wed 09 Nov 66 JERRY LEE LEWIS 12/6 (7-11.30 pm)
    Wed 04 Jan 67 Jimmy James & The Vagabonds 6/3d (7-11.30 pm)
    Wed 11 Jan 67 Eric Burden & The New Animals 7/6d (7-11.30 pm)
    Wed 18 Jan 67 THE MOVE – –
    Wed 25 Jan 67 The SMALL FACES 7/6d (7-11.30 pm)
    Wed 08 Feb 67 EDWIN STARR – –
    Wed 15 Feb 67 Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames – –
    Wed 22 Feb 67 CHUCK BERRY – –
    Wed 08 Mar 67 Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – –
    Wed 22 Mar 67 CREAM (Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker) – –
    Wed 05 Apr 67 Geno Washington – –
    Wed 19 Apr 67 The Cortinas + Support – –
    Wed 17 May 67 THE WHO – –
    Wed 24 May 67 THE MOVE + The Cortinas – –
    Wed 27 Mar 68 The HERD – –
    Wed 17 Apr 68 The SMALL FACES – –
    Wed 24 Apr 68 IKE & TINA TURNER

    [Cf setlist.fm. Ed]

    By Paul Griggs (25/05/2023)
  • Reply to Caroline Scott:

    Hi Caroline you must have liked Bingo😊 Saturday afternoons were usually Bingo except an odd week when they had ballroom dancing for under 16s I think. But your right Saturday morning was then generally under 13/15 maybe followed by Monday nights which from memory was over 13s. Wednesday was always band night and Friday or Saturday was over 18s although Saturday was the more popular night. Friday night crowd were generally a bit older 20/30s plus. Tuesday and Thursday I can’t remember but one of them was a bingo night. I also remember one night was more commonly known to Mecca Staff as grab a granny night 😂😂

    By Maurice (05/05/2023)
  • Great memories came flooding back, yes Colin I knew you and your mum and dad very well. Somewhere around 65\66 I even had a few drumming lessons with the orchestra drummer of the day. Also contrary to reports from others I can categorically tell you the Beatles never played Stevenage. My father was the manager during the 60s and I saw pretty much all the Bands that appeared there. Band night was always a Wednesday and the Who was the biggest crowd puller. They appeared many times. At that time the Locarno had a fire capacity of 2000 but on one occasion they actually exceeded it with 2500 for the Who. 😱. As for Stuart Henry he was a great character I could tell you stories to make your toes curl😂 the resident DJ was Danny Leno during most of Stuart’s visits.

    By Maurice (03/05/2023)
  • Yes Stuart Henry and Emperor Rosko were regular dj’s at the Mecca

    By Kathy Nye (04/01/2023)
  • Hi Jim French. My mum was married to Gerry Ferrero the piano player with Wally. Did you know him. My mum’s name was Iris

    By Colin Stevens (16/11/2021)
  • I was the drummer with the Wally Johnson Orchestra in 1962/3. This was the resident dance band of that time. Four trumpets, five saxes, piano bass and drums. The visiting dancers were all nicely dressed and the ballroom was the very last dance hall ever to be built by the Mecca Organisation. It had the finest orchestra, lighting, sound system and air-conditioning and also a sprung dance floor of that time.

    By Jim French (05/08/2021)
  • Hi guys, I’m doing some research into local DJs from this time and wondered if anyone remembers the names of any who played at the Mecca in the late 60s/ early 70s. Any info gratefully received.

    By Nicholas Porter (03/11/2020)
  • I remember Cloda Rogers [Clodagh Rodgers. Ed] being the resident singer.

    By Alan Millard (22/03/2020)
  • Great many memories of The Mecca and Bowes Lyon House and my sister and I were very lucky to see so much brilliant live music, especially in the 60s. One of the big nights at the Mecca was New Year’s Eve, which was always crowded, but I loved it, because you could always contrive to be near the bloke you fancied as it approached midnight, so you would get a kiss!!. Funnily enough, I was telling someone about the ‘boudoir’ the other day, so it’s great to see the photo.

    By Maureen Browning (nee Dayton) (29/12/2019)
  • O THE MECCA, great memories, revolving stage, a gallery extending around three sides where one could sit at a table and view the dance floor and stage below. We would see some of the top “beat groups” of the day. A beat group would play two slots with a half hour break between, when the stage would then revolve and the resident band would appear {at which we would all disappear , to the bar!!}. Unfortunately i suffered from alopecia, and this would mean periods of time with hair loss and subsequent lack of ability to obtain a dance!! i explained this to my doctor who agreed to supply me with two national health wigs {beatle style of course}.

    The handmade wigs arrived some weeks later at which i went straight down to the mecca paid my 4 shillings and sixpence to get in {price estimated} and promptly walked up to a little blond girl who was dancing round her handbag in the centre of the dance floor. I politely asked if she would care to dance with me to which she retorted {through her chewing gum filled mouth } “you must be bloody joking”. I LOST IT TOTALY whipping off my wig throwing it to the floor whilst shouting out “what do you expect for 4 shillings and sixpence, elvis presley!! I then walked off kicking my wig in front of me. But it was good news the following week when i returned to the mecca {with my mate dave gale and WITHOUT said wig !!} that i would meet christine barry who was my girlfriend for a year before i was sent to germany for a years specialised training with the company for which i worked {never saw her again!!}.

    Anybody remember the baron knights? they could mimic any of the top beat groups of the time, they played at the mecca a good few times, talented indeed.

    By michael gohami (08/12/2019)
  • Friday 1 November 1968 is a memorable date for me at the Stevenage Mecca, happy days and happy memories, yes how we hated it when the ‘orchestra’ came on and just had to retire to the bar!

    By Stephen Barrett (02/11/2019)
  • I remember this too. Had many great times at the Mecca. I remember going to the midnight ball from Midnight to 4 am. I walked home to Bedwell. A copper picked me up and took me home. Great times. Great dancing and I loved dressing up in all the mod clothes.

    Best time of my life. CB – now living in Canada.

    By CB (24/07/2019)
  • We often went by coach from Luton to the Locarno on a Saturday night.

    Easter 1964 we were given a base metal charm of a chicken coming out of an egg as we paid. Mine had a flat base and at the end of the evening I was called up on stage and given a 9 carat gold one in a case. Don’t know if this was a local promotion or if they were given out at all the Mecca dancehalls. Lovely memories. Does anyone remember this promotion?

    By D Davidson (07/04/2019)
  • Amazing memories of the Mecca. Saw many groups ( not bands as they are now called) Stevie wonder, small faces too. Dancing with my friends, started off on Saturday mornings when we were young. Picked up by my dad wasn’t aloud to go home alone then. Monday in the patio suite much later on. Kathleen Nye ( Bristow)

    By Kathleen nye (25/01/2019)
  • Fanastic place so many great memories from 1969.
    Used to go there every Saturday night revolving stage Glenn Campbell Rhinestone Cowboy playing.
    Almost 50 years ago now. Mohair suit, beautiful blond girlfriend now I am old and grey!
    Happy Days

    By Ray (06/01/2018)
  • I remember it well. I started off on Saturday mornings, moved on to the afternoons and then the pinnacle of social aspiration – Saturday nights. How we hated it when the ‘orchestra’ came on! The powder room looks so small!! Monday night was also the Mecca, Friday was ‘Bowes’ then Sunday was a long trip to The Cherry in WGC.

    By Caroline Scott (07/02/2014)
  • I also remember the Monday nights – a lifetime ago!

    By Lynne Newbury (30/12/2012)
  • It took me a moment to realize where this was… of course, the powder room of the Locarno Ballroom & Mecca. Loved this place. Monday Night Mecca…Saturday Night and my favourite was Sunday Night at the ???. Saw some great & not so great artists.. Tony Blackburn, Stuart Henry,Johnnie Walker (very fond memories) Go-Go dancing competitions! Broken hearts! The powder room smelling of talcum powder and hairspray and the strobe lights that meant wearing black a disaster… it made everyone look as though they had dandrufff…..

    By Terri Anderson (18/06/2012)
  • the Mecca…… where I met my first love, Paul Nesbitt, he came over with the Hemel boys…… many a fun night was had there in my youth….. 1967-1971, saw a lot of great bands….. loved the revolving stage and the ‘starry’ ceiling and even though this photo of the ‘powder room’ makes it look like a laundromat we thought it was the coolest place to ever…..

    By Christine Burwell (Banham) (02/03/2012)