The unique thoughts of our Denis

ONCE the Dispatch district’s biggest entertainment centre, Hucknall and Linby Miners Welfare closed down 25 years ago — on Boxing Day 1987, to be exact.

Built in 1964, the complex on Portland Road, Hucknall had been losing money steadily in previous months. But the final straw came when the ceiling collapsed.

The repair work would have cost £50,000 and it was not covered by insurance. The Welfare committee could not afford the money so the crucial decision was made to shut the centre down.

The committee chairman, Paul James, said the damage was down to faulty construction.

The sprung floor in the main hall was supposed to have been laid down on felt pads on top of concrete beams but instead the pads were laid on breeze blocks.

Over the years, wear and tear -— including ladies’ energetic aerobic sessions — caused the breeze blocks to deteriorate. The closure meant that five full-time staff and eight part-time workers lost their jobs.

It was hoped that the Welfare, which had 49 years of a 100-year lease still to run, could be sold. But the building was later demolished.

Coun John Wilmott (Lab), of Hucknall, who is deputy leader of Ashfield District Council, served as entertainment manager at the centre.

He said: “It was a very sad occasion when the Welfare bowed out, coming little more than a year after the adjoining ‘Bottom Pit’ closed.

“In its heyday the centre was used for all sorts of events in the main hall and Welbeck Suite. “Regular activities included sequence dances, over-18s’ discos and country and western nights. The centre was often packed solid and it was a real community focal point.”

John recalled that a number of famous names appeared at the Welfare. They included the Slade band, whose ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ has become a perennial favourite British Yuletide song.

“They were on their way down by then, which is why they were reasonably priced,” said John. “They brought a pantechnicon of equipment and they emptied a bottle of vodka with ice into a bowl in their dressing-room.”

Other top acts which entertained at the Welfare included The Searchers, Queen tribute band Magic and comedian Tom O’Connor.

Not all Welfare acts proved successful, however. John recalls a Scottish comedian who ‘did not raise a titter’.

There was also a memorable appearance by a group which set off stink bombs in front of the stage, releasing smoke across the auditorium, and followed this up with ‘flash, bang, wallop’ sound effects.

One disgruntled member told them: “You have deefened me (that’s how he pronounced deafened) and half-choked me to death.

“All you need do now is poison the beer!”

One of my memories of the Welfare is when streaking was popular. From a Trent bus window, I saw a man running along High Street wearing only a pair of socks.

He had apparently accepted a £20 bet to streak from the Plough and Harrow pub to the Welfare.

The police got to know about it and he was chased by an officer who threw a raincoat over him.

DENIS ROBINSON,

Former Dispatch

chief reporter.