READER'S LETTER: Farewell to the Batley Frontier

Reader Timothy Crabb pens a tribute to the iconic venue which is poised to close later this month.

Saturday, 23rd July 2016, 6:00 am
Batley Variety Club undated. Owner James Corrigan at the club. The club later became the Frontier Club.

I was heartbroken to hear about the closure of Batley’s most iconic venue.

You would be hard-pressed to find a Batley local who doesn’t have a personal anecdote about Batley Variety Club, later known as Batley Frontier.

There is an instinctive magic apparent to all who have spent serious time there.

In my first few weeks working there I heard all the best stories.

How Louis Armstrong played there weeks after knocking the Beatles off number one.

How it is responsible for the marriages of both Roy Orbinson and ‘Bee Gee’ Maurice Gibb.

And, how Batley Variety club was the first of its kind, with carpeted floors, velvet ‘pods’ and a hearty ‘chicken-in-a-basket’ dinner.

When it opened in 1967, it was a place where working class folk would frequent after a long week of hard and exhausting labour.

The ladies would spend hours perming their hair and picking their dresses in anticipation.

Perhaps not much has changed in the 40 years since then.

Fast-forward ten years or so and the Variety club is reborn as the ‘Frontier’.

Coaches would fill the large park at the back, bringing guests from all over.

At the time, it was a futuristic venue with a famous light-show, with ‘lightyears ahead’ still blazed into the venue’s lights today.

As the nightclub scene developed, the ‘Tier saw customers eventually opt for the city clubs as they became more accessible, leaving behind a nucleus of local people.

On my first visit to the Frontier I felt a strange comfort not associated with the anonymity of other nightclubs in other cities.

The carpeted floor and familiar faces made the experience uniquely homey.

It was soon after this that I got a job working behind the bar.

The staff were warm and welcoming, with many former employees still visiting regularly, when most people would be keen to avoid a place they used to work.

After working there a few weeks, one of the most surprising things was that it was the same clientele most weeks.

It’s a great positive that people felt so comfortable at the ‘Tier.

I made many friends there: staff, customers and ‘Dancing Richard’ alike.

In recent years, it is no secret that the Frontier has suffered negative press.

It famously featured on the ‘Bouncers’ TV programme which highlighted the very worst parts.

Many believe this to have been the turning point, damaging its reputation beyond repair.

That was when the venue turned from local historical landmark to embarrassing nightclub.

Soon, it was difficult to get a taxi home without “Is the Frontier becoming a Morrisons?” being a hot topic.

A lot of people became disillusioned with the place, often criticising it through pure snobbery.

For me, it will always be a place for honest and local people.

When featured in local history, the Batley Frontier and Variety Club will be remembered as a huge success.

It put Batley on the map.

It changed the lives of many people who visited in past years; local and from afar.

I, for one, will be there for its final grandstand, next weekend, to raise a glass to the world famous Batley Frontier.