From the Tic Toc to the Kasbah: A history of the Coventry nightclub
Pete Clemons on the historic venue in Primrose Hill Street
Pauline Black performing at The Tic Toc Club in Coventry in July 1981
The venue that we currently know and love as The Kasbah is more than 100 years old and is one of the oldest and most enduring entertainment rooms in the city.
Situated at 51 Primrose Hill Street this incredibly proud looking building first opened as the Globe Picture Theatre in 1914. Quite incredible when you think about it now but at the time it was one of four cinemas in Hillfields alone. Movies were shown within it for more than 40 years until it closed in 1956. The venue was then re opened in 1957 as the Majestic Ballroom.
The Majestic, in the main, had resident big bands such as the Wylie Price Orchestra augmented with singer Jean Hudson. Friday’s and Saturday’s were advertised as evenings of modern dance. Although during the afternoons you could attend rock ‘n’ roll dances and learn to jive to band and disc. These sessions continued until July 1961.
The venue was then taken over by the Mecca organisation that spent the rest of the year rebuilding and redecorating. During early 1962 announcements began to appear that bookings were now being taken at the renovated building with its luxurious decor and modern amenities. March of that year the venue opened as The Orchid Ballroom.
Initially the venue held beat, gala nights and bingo but The Orchid quickly became the premier venue for Irish entertainment. The show bands had now arrived and they were led by the likes of Johnny Flynn, Hank Locklin, Maurice Lynch and Jack Ruane.
Early 1963 and the Orchid Ballroom had now come under the control of entertainer and entrepreneur Larry Page. Larry had actually been a pop star in his own right having toured with Cliff Richard and the Shadows and became known as the ‘teenage rage’.
Page retired from performing at the end of the 1950’s and joined Mecca as a consultant manager.
The Kasbah in Primrose Hill Street, Coventry
During his stay in Coventry he hosted many Sunday night talent contests and had even managed to get record deals for local artists Johnny B Great and the Goodmen, Shel Naylor and The Avengers.
He even discovered and created an all girl group, The Orchids, who legend has it, were named after the venue. The Orchids, along with the bands named above all signed to Decca records and all had several minor hits on that label, although The Avengers had, by then, become The Mighty Avengers when their singles were released.
His time in Coventry was relatively short. The Orchid ballroom had, by now, become a magnet for some of the most influential record producers and music publishers of the early sixties. Both Phil Solomon of Decca records and Edward Kassner of President records were both serious players in the music industry back then and their remit was to entice Larry back to London.
Of course they succeeded but the legacy he left us with was long lasting and continues to impress today. After he left Coventry during 1964 Larry then went on to manage The Troggs and The Kinks and, of course, set up his own Page One record label and later The Penny Farthing label.
After that the venue became a bingo hall. And then some years later the venue closed for good and lay dormant.
That was until during the very late 1980’s when Jon Gaunt began to breathe new life into the building.
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Jon had founded a co-operative theatre company called Tic Toc. The theatre company, along with its other spin off’s had performed at other venues within the city such as the Coventry University and at Hertford Place but now wanted its own permanent home.
The company received funding from West Midlands Arts and the Arts Council of Britain. With this money they bought and renovated the disused and now derelict hall. It reopened in 1990 as The Tic Toc Club.
The Colosseum nightclub in Primrose Hill Street, Coventry, pictured in 2007
Looking back the Tic Toc Club had an illustrious history yet albeit short lived history. The Britpop scene was then in its infancy and the club captured the magic of those early days by playing host to Blur and the Ocean Colour Scene.
The Tic Toc also embraced the buildings earlier history by naming its two rooms the orchid suite and the majestic ballroom.
The Tic Toc club even teamed up with the Coventry Telegraph music column ‘Street Talk’ to bring some valuable exposure to the local scene at the time with performances by Splash With Sonya, The Giraffes, The Bonediggers and many others.
For a brief while in 1993 the venue became known as Antics and played host to future internationally important bands like Porcupine Tree and Ultramarine but by early 1994 it was all over.
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But it did not remain closed for too long as it soon re-opened as The Colosseum. The Colly, as it was fondly known as, opened in 1995 and initially concentrated on the dance scene holding regular themed nights such as Fundamental and the Groovy Garden which began at the Dog and Trumpet in the early 1980’s and still continued at The Kasbah till fairly recently.
However by the turn of the century it had established itself as an incredibly important live venue for local bands and also attracted future household names like The Libertines, The Arctic Monkeys and Keane as its fame widened.
During late 2007 and after around 12 years The Colosseum was refurbished and re-launched as its current incarnation The Kasbah. The Kasbah is very popular with Coventry’s strong student base and holds a weekly mix of club nights along with the regular live bands.
As a live venue the Kasbah has built on the successful foundations of the Colly and is also well established on the national touring map. Recent highlights include Cage the Elephant, La Roux and Noah and the Whale.
Upcoming gigs include The Cribs, and Gabrielle Aplin.
100 years of history is an astounding feat for any building nowadays. Let’s hope, after this future landmark birthday, that it continues to grow for years to come.