Bobby documents the depth and breadth of Club talent over the past century
Bobby Chainbridge
May 23, 2023

Earlier this month I was sent a selection of images from the new book 'Turns' by award winning photographer Rankin. He spent several months, touring the North East, snapping portrait photos of various Club performers.

It's a lovely looking book that weighs an absolute ton thanks to its unforgiving A1 size. However, being absolute muckle it really shows off the extraordinary detail he managed to capture of their craggy boat races. Rankin struck out visiting the Bedlington Terrier Club in April 2022, when he was able to capture more than ten 'turns' taking part in the Terrier's Turn Relay Performance.

As the visages of Davey Bowey, Ozzy Ozbored and Steve Doggy Dogg, amongst others stared back at me, I got to thinking about the cavalcade of Club Entertainers who have trod the lino over the years, and with me Mag North deadline pressing, I thought I'd take a look back at some of the incredible performers who have entertained Club member over the years.

Davey Bowey
Ozzy Ozzbored
Steve Doggy Dog

"There has always been one form or another of live entertainment going right back to the very early working men’s clubs. The upper class patrons of the first clubs hoped that education would play a key role in member’s club hours as a useful addition to the ‘sober discourse’ and games such as billiards and dominoes. But the working men often wanted a spot of entertainment as well to brighten up their hard, often quite dull lives." Dr Ruth Cherrington- Club Historians - 2009

After a quick phone call to the CIU Turn Hotline, which operates exclusively on the Rabbit Network, I able to ascertain than at the some 15,000 North East Clubs in the month of April 2023, there was close to twenty thousand turns grafting. A not insignificant number. What I can say with absolute certainty is that there's something for everyone.

The antithesis of 'Sober Discourse' on the club circuit would be Monologist, Roy Jelly, who regularly performs his ‘Hundred Can Man’ show at the Bypass Club, Birtley.

Roy Jelly - The Hundred Can Man

His is a unique, one-man show, where he works his way through one hundred cans of high strength Dutch lager while reciting the bestselling autobiography of cricketing legend Ian Botham, “Don’t Tell Kath”, word for word. He’s usually four sheets to the wind when he gets to the bit about the the 1999/2000 winter tour of South Africa which really adds to Beefy’s elegiac prose. Roy's show is the perfect evocation of the sheer variety of North East Clubland.

From comedians to magicians, heavy rock bands to rappers; every night in the North East, serves up a roster that would put the Royal Variety Show to shame. Whether it's Bagpiperist Andy Derwent belting out the MC Stompin classics at The Cross Keys Club or Peter Howitt tribute actor and musician Dave Aldridge, performing his Bread on Bread show; where the scripts from 1980s BBC sitcom Bread are sung to the sounds of American soft rock band Bread, Turns come in all shapes, sizes and sounds.

Andy Derwent
Dave Aldridge

A club that really spearheaded the age of Turns was The Auld Monkey Club, precursor to the The New Monkey, in Pallion, Sunderland, which found itself featured in Time Magazine in early 1939.

The Auld Monkey club was an infamous nightspot, where men and women of the area would dance the night away to Big Band Makina 78s. Gramaphone Jockeys, or GJs, Alf TetleyTea and Roger NoBananas were on the decks while resident MCs PatheNewsreel and KelloggsCornflake kept the crowds moving with their rapid fire yet perfectly enunciated, party-hyping lyrics.

Members of The Auld Monkey
MC PatheNewsreel
GJ Roger NoBananas

Years ahead of its time, and forerunner to the 1990s European hard house genre that dominated the Sunderland scene, the club was tragically closed down by local authorities in 1941 as the majority of members were off their faces on Laudanum.

The Club Turns can be incredibly niche; much like the Discover Weekly playlist that Spotify generates, although, to be fair, mine is always just 20 versions of Run for Home by Lindisfarne. One-off performances are still a regular occurrence and many are spoken about by Club Members with reverence; whether it was Sir John Hall and his three hour chant of "Five Nil" over and over for four hours on the 20th October 1996 in The Magpie Club on Newgate Street, or when Little Billy Fane did his dramatic reading of every swear word from Oxford English Dictionary, bizarrely at The Mitre Club in Benwell, years before his role as be-bearded custodian Geoff Keegan in Byker Grove.

One popular and truly unique performer is Robby Robson, the north East’s number one Alan Robson tribute act. Robby hosts a live, weekly mobile phone-in show ‘Shite Owls’ in the Concert Room of The Goldsmith’s Club in Byker, fielding calls from members from 10pm - 2am. Every single show is unscripted and improvised. There’s a lot of first time caller, long time drinkers on the blower and Robby dishes out some Grade A patter to folk with all manner of maladies. It’s more performance art than anything.

Robby Robson - host of 'Shite Owls'

This photo from the John Pitpony Club Collection shows Conductor Alfred Craig serenading the members of The Terminus Club in Newcastle on the 2nd October 1966. This was the day the Trolley Bus service came to an end.

Alfred was the Chief Conductor on the 28 Newcastle routes and responsible for piloting all of the 204 of the buses into the River Tyne when the services ceased. After hooning the last bus into the river, Alfred made a beeline to The Terminus to give a rousing rendition of the Trolleybus Anthem, “The Leccy Bastard” to the assembled crowd. Rumour has it, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Alfie Craig

You'd be hard pressed to find a performance like Alfred Craig's today, as cover bands make up over 85% of Club Turns. One popular band are The Sullivans, regular performers at The Main Line Social Club, where they play all the TV themes you know and love.

Turnabout, Dispatches, Pebble Mill, The Clothes Show, Treasure Hunt, Transworld Sport; they play 'em all. They're often supported by ambient electronica duo PagesFromCeefax who perform an incredible three hour set played entirely on train whistles. The members know what they like.

The Sullivans

Children aren't forgotten by the Clubs either when it comes to entertainment. In March, the committee of The St. Mary Club in Bensham were forced to apologise to all the families who attended their performance of The Charlie Chipmunk Show. Popular Kids Turn Charlie has been having the bairns chuckling away for years, however the lads at the St. Mary weren’t aware they’d booked Charlie to perform his ‘Blackpool Pier Special’ and not his 'Quiet Bairns Funtime,' as advertised. The staff had also forgotten that the pop in the fridges was, in fact, just Blue WKD. Thankfully the little girl who punched the police dog made it out of the cells in time for her Grade One Recorder exam.

Charlie Chipmunk

Risque humour is a club staple and resident Backworth Comrades blue comic Elsie Scott has been performing at the club since the age of 14. Now 78, Elsie has been entertaining the punters in the basement room with her blend of sexual innuendos, crude anecdotes and some of the absolutely vile responses she’s had from her prison penpals, for over sixty years. Seriously, if this article inspires to make the trip to see her weekly show and you don't work on the rigs, be prepared!

Blue Comic Elsie Scott

"The comic's today, if you can call them that, are scared. Scared of being cancelled, scared of the members lodging a complaint. I was raised by me Nana to call a c*** a c*** and I make no apologies for that" said Elsie, speaking to me from her chair exercise class at the Community Centre."

She continues, "I learned me trade from Jerry Jangles, and let me tell you, Jerry didn't give a f**k!"

Jerry Jangles

She's got a point. Simply mentioning the name Jerry Jangles, will buckle most club members double. Jangles (1919-1985) was renowned in North East Clubland circles for his foul mouth, wandering eye and "Hoy it up your cock" catchphrase. When caught in flagrante delicto with the Bishop of Durham, Jerry relished the controversy, releasing his secret recordings of their liaisons on his 1962 album 'The Little W**ker' that is, to this day, JG Windows biggest yearly seller.

This rise of showtune talent shows, in the late 00s saw the clubs flooded with Musical Theatre Turns, although thankfully this is on the wane, Binman Harry Oatmeal is still a regular performer on the circuit with his Harry Sings Songs From The Shows Show. To be fair to him, his Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar is quite something.

Harry Oatmeal

His most recent interpretation of HSSFTS saw him combining the helicopter crash from Miss Saigon and the chandelier falling from Phantom and was well worth the four quid entrance fee.

The Three Tenners are cut from similar theatrical cloth. I caught them last at The Saltwell Convalescence Club and the lads brought me to tears with their operatic versions of Doctorin’ The Tardis, Ini Kamozi's Here Come The Hotstepper and Swamp Thing by The Grid. Seriously emotive stuff.

The Three Tenners

After Newcastle's recent league performance, I have it on good authority that they'll be touring many of the Newcastle Clubs, performing only chants from the Gallowgate End of St. James' Park. Sure to be a sell out run.

The sheer number of ridiculously successful clubs in these parts means there's a stage with your name on it. If you can patter on for a couple of hours, you're sure to make some Club Coin. Case in point is Georgie Brown, from Parrot Taxis, who gave a cracking performance of his debut “Tales from The Cab” show at The Spennymoor Constitutional a few weeks back.

Patter Merchant Georgie Brown

George has had everyone in the back over the years; Wendy Craig, Lawrie McMenemy, the lot. He told some cracking tales over his three hours of banter.

I for one, loved hearing about how he patented putting a quid in the seatbelt slot to stop the 'binging' from the dashboard and the various changes in  cab soilage fees over the years.

He did have a lot to say about Uber as well, which triggered a bit of a rant from Georgie about about microchips, David Icke and the Great Reset. That wasn’t great. But other than Theseus deeply troubling, conspiratorial views it was a right laugh. A few club members over the years have asked why I haven't graced the Function Room Stage with my almanac-like knowledge of all things Club. Perhaps, one day, I might just.

Bobby Chainbridge is the official Club Publicist for all North East Social Clubs. You can find his club coverage on his Instagram page HERE