It’s now approaching five decades since the Fiesta first opened in the North of England and you still have to pinch yourself that a show business operation of such self-determined audacity actually happened. By 1970, when the second club opened in Sheffield, the Lipthorpe brothers of Teesside had changed the face of entertainment forever.
Las Vegas-style glitz, courtesy of the biggest stars on the planet performing in the most palatial surroundings imaginable, were now being served nightly in two of the most unlikely places in England – Norton High Street in Stockton-On-Tees and Arundel Gate in Sheffield.
Nobody gave the brothers a chance when they unveiled their first operation in 1965 but they proved, if you’ve got the passion, flair and outlandish belief, anything’s possible.
Many cite Batley Variety Club as the maverick venue that defied the odds to bring the biggest stars in the world to uncharted territory in the North of England in the late 1960s and 1970s. But the Lipthorpes were already doing it two years earlier with the unveiling of the first Fiesta in Stockton. For the Corrigans, who went on to unveil Batley Variety Club in the Easter of 1967, the Stockton operation was an revelation. Keith Lipthorpe: “Jim and I spent two whole days with Jimmy Corrigan from Batley. He told us he was opening a large Working Men’s Club outside Leeds. We thought it was no threat to us so we’d help him. We gave him more information than we should have.” It wouldn’t be long before the Lipthorpes and the Corrigans would be fighting to secure exclusive deals with the biggest cabaret artists on the planet. The situation would eventually spell disaster for both venues.
The first, and financially most successful, Fiesta transformed a derelict cinema in the largely unremarkable Teesside suburb of Norton.
Jon Allan, who became a regular at the venue, said: “We thought the Lipthorpes were totally mad. There couldn’t have been a more unlikely place for a luxury cabaret club in the entire Western World.” But the brothers proved their critics wrong, almost overnight.
The venue’s success sent shockwaves across the leisure industry as the stars, many of them having floundering careers following the death of variety theatre, flocked to entertain the crowds at this new breed of glitzy cabaret club.
excerts from the book – “No Siesta’til Club Fiesta” – by Neil Anderson – nosiesta