STARRY STARRY NIGHTS AT THE VARIETY CLUB

The history of Batley Variety Club is an amazing rags to riches story of how a man and his wife had a dream and made it come true against all the odds.

James Corrigan, from a fairground family, and his wife Betty, used drive, imagination, sheer guts and even cheek to transform a piece of wasteland in Bradford Road.

And in just 14 weeks they built the magnificent, ground-breaking entertainment centre which became the envy of showbusiness impresarios the world over.

The idea was simple, but while other people thought no further than London, James Corrigan had plans for a town most had probably never even heard of.

He had the idea of combining a huge club which would attract the big stars and where people could enjoy a drink and a meal at family tables while enjoying the entertainment.

When Batley Variety Club opened on Easter Sunday, 1967, James didn't even have enough money to pay the 3,000-a-week fee he had agreed with the opening night stars – The Bachelors.

Every penny he had, plus much more he had borrowed, had gone into building and fitting out the 120,000 club – fulfilling his vision of bringing top-line acts to Batley and charging ordinary folk no more than a few bob to see them.

Many thought the idea was crazy. Pick a site in Leeds or Bradford, they said, but Batley... what's Batley got?

It had nothing then, but thanks to James Corrigan it soon would; a club which would not only become the talk of the town, but of the whole country, with its fame spreading even to New York and Las Vegas.

By the end of the Variety Club's first amazing week, the doubts – and doubters – had gone and James had more than enough to pay the Bachelors.

The club's second week saw Val Doonican topping the bill and after that James and his agent Bernard Hinchcliffe were no longer having to fight to persuade the stars to come to a town they had never heard of.

Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield was the first big American 'catch' and more big names followed – Tony Hancock, Neil Sedaka, Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison.

Most people believed it was Louis Armstrong who put the Variety Club on the map, but for James the biggest star of them all was Shirley Bassey.

"We booked her for three weeks at a time. She packed them in," he said.

"She is so powerful an entertainer, but a wonderful person and full of fun."

Audiences also saw Gerry and the Pacemakers, Acker Bilk, Tommy Cooper, Engelbert Humperdinck, Billy Daniels, Eric Delaney, Lulu, Matt Monro, Helen Shapiro, the Temperance Seven, the Beverly Sisters, and PJ Proby and many, many more.