This website was launched 17 July 2014. Lots more images will be added to this website as time goes by. Meanwhile, keep in touch with your old GOLDEN GARTER colleagues and friends via Rose McGivern's dedicated Facebook Group. To access it, please copy and paste this link into your browser:-
A Brief History of the Golden Garter
According to its owners, Trust House Forte, the Golden Garter was a Show Bar Theatre Restaurant – but, to those patrons who frequented this entertainment venue in Wythenshawe on the south side of Manchester near Ringway Airport in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, it was a Cabaret Club – pure and simple - where the biggest stars from show business performed in what was dubbed “The Talk Of The Town Of The North”.
The reference to the “Talk of the Town” was because this iconic London cabaret venue was also owned by the same company as the Golden Garter, headed by former ‘milk bar’-owner Charles Forte, impresario Bernard Delfont & theatrical producer Robert Nesbitt. Converted from the London Hippodrome theatre and opened in 1958, the Talk of the Town offered a sophisticated complete night out comprising drinking, dining, dancing and a lavish floor-show revue. Within 2 years, they’d added a star performer to top the bill: the first being Eartha Kitt from 7th. September 1960. Eartha was later to play the Golden Garter on three occasions and ex-employees still talk of her generosity and humour to the staff who worked there. There’s a lovely reminiscence of a Garter employee baby-sitting Miss Kitt’s 7-year old daughter (named Kitt) at The Excelsior Hotel, while she appeared on stage. An ex-member of the kitchen staff recalls being gifted Eartha’s mink coat on a whim. Then there’s the story from another employee who remembers her brother, who owned a local butcher’s shop, being visited by Eartha - only for him to greet her with “Don’t tell me: Shirley Bassey!” - to which Eartha replied, without missing a beat, “She should be so lucky!”.
The success of the Talk of the Town spurred the London-based owners into replicating the format 200 miles north in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Whereas the ‘Talk’ had been converted from a theatre, originally built in 1900, the flat-roofed single-storey ‘Garter’ - with nothing to commend it architecturally - came from more modest beginnings. Local residents say it was originally a bowling alley called Daryl’s with a disco inside called Batman’s - although I have yet to be able to trace any adverts in the Manchester Evening News to flesh out the history of the building. These days it is a Gala Bingo Hall with just a small part of the original Golden Garter still standing in one corner.
It’s the Manchester Evening News’ archive at the British Library that has been my source of information about the Golden Garter’s history. Trawling through 14 years’ of archive records has enabled me to produce the first definitive record of every act that ever played The Golden Garter. You can see the week-by-week listing of who played when at and you can keep in touch with hundreds of people who worked or performed there through this Facebook link https://www.facebook.com/groups/46000444925/?fref=ts and, if you have any stories to tell me or corrections on anything on the website, please email me at GoldenGarter@Live.com
The Golden Garter opened its doors on 7th. October 1968 and a feature that night in the Manchester Evening News tells us what it cost, who supplied the carpets, who installed the electrics and which firm fitted out the kitchen! The interior was in a horseshoe shape on 7 levels accommodating 1,400 patrons – all of whom were promised, sat at rectangular tables, an uninterrupted view of the automated extending and rising stage. Customers travelled from far and wide to enjoy a full night’s entertainment. In its heyday, the club opened at 8 p.m. and didn’t close until 1 p.m. – so you could be in there for up to 5 hours! How the customers got up in time for work the next day, I don’t know.
The star performer on the opening week was Bruce Forsyth, supported by a folk duo: “Britain’s answer to Simon and Garfunkel”, The Foggy Dew’O. Bruce is still a huge name nearly 50 years on - but some of the stars who appeared at the Golden Garter did so towards the end of their show business careers: acts that had played the Music Halls and appeared on film, TV and radio - like Al Read, The Dallas Boys, David Whitfield, Dickie Valentine, Josef Locke, The Kaye Sisters, Joan Turner, Morton Fraser’s Harmonica Gang, Tessie O’Shea & Jimmy Edwards.
Other weeks, though, you could expect to see the then current hit-makers like Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Dusty Springfield, The Hollies, The Tremeloes and The Bachelors topping the bill. Indeed that last-named Irish trio were the first act to play 3 consecutive weeks at the club and every one of the 25,000 seats were sold.
The very last act to perform at the Golden Garter was The Fortunes - who appeared for 5 nights from 27 – 31 December 1982. By January 1983, the club was up for sale with an asking price of £500,000.
In the 14 years it was open, The Golden Garter had rebranded itself twice. After 5 years it became “The New Golden Garter” from 24th. September 1973. Seven years later, in May 1980, the first signs of a downward spiral were afoot. Instead of 6-day trading, The New Golden Garter was now only opening on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. By September 1980 the club was only open on Fridays and Saturdays - but then The Golden Garter Disco Dancing Championships ran for 4 weeks in late September & early October and the club was back, once again, on a 6-night footing from November 1980 with The Three Degrees playing 7 nights in November 1980.
Sadly, it was not to last and January 1981 heralded a return to 3-night trading again and there were weeks in March and April when the club was “dark” (the theatrical word used to indicate that no performance is taking place). The Fortunes played for the last 3 nights of May 1981 before the premises were then closed for 3 months’ refurbishment.
According to the industry newspaper, The Stage, the venue intended to change its “outmoded club format” - so with a snappier, catchier and abbreviated name, “The Garter” (now billed as a Disco Cabaret Club) reopened with a new look, a new logo and 6-night trading again from 7th. September 1981 - with headline acts like The Chi-Lites, Shakatak & Odyssey.
But, sadly, changing the name and the format wasn’t enough to keep the audiences attending and, little more than a year later, it was closed for ever.
Nine years after that, August 1990, fire destroyed the building and little remained.
But, for those of us that worked there and watched there, many happy memories remain of the Talk of the Town of the North – the fabulous, the best of them all, the one and only GOLDEN GARTER!
© John Orchard 2015