The Stage Was Always Set for Stars to Shine

by | Oct 31, 2017 | Celebrity, Manchester

Entertainment in Manchester in the 1970s ranged from traditional pantos and teen idol David Cassidy to the hippie musical Hair and punk rockers The Clash!

iNostalgia takes a look at a decade of striking contrasts. Coronation Street favourite William Roache has been through a lot during his long acting career.

His TV character Ken Barlow has endured bitter feuds, train crashes, various accidents and even attempted murder.

But nothing quite like the challenge of playing King Pentheus in John Bowen’s play Disorderly Women in November 1970.

For Roache, as our picture shows, had to tread the boards in a wig, full make-up and a mini skirt!

His biggest problem was finding a dress for the part. ‘Shops have all gone midi and maxi and the few minis left aren’t frilly enough’, explained Roache at the time.

So, with the help of his actress wife Anna Cropper, he bought a mini costing 17 guineas and cut it up to size!

He needed the dress as Pentheus was a king with a problem. The women of his kingdom were being lured by an unseen force into the mountains, never to return. So Pentheus had to don a mini skirt to pass as one of them and find out their fate.

Not sure how it would have gone down in the Rovers Return!

William Roache wearing a mini dress for a play

William Roache in mini-skirt to play King Pentheus, November 1970

Dressing up in a skirt was all part of the job for British stalwart Arthur Askey when he played the pantomime dame in Babes in the Wood at the Palace Theatre in December 1976. He’s pictured with singer Dickie Henderson, left, and comic actor Cardew Robinson, centre.

Arthur Askey in panto with Dickie Henderson and Cardew Robinson

Arthur Askey, right, in panto with Dickie Henderson and Cardew Robinson, December 1976

Hotpants were the order of the day for future Coronation Street star Anne Kirkbride when she filmed the Jack Rosenthal drama Another Sunday and Sweet F.A. in Manchester in October 1971.

Kirkbride, aged 17, played footballer’s girlfriend Denise in the one-off Granada TV play alongside actress Clare Sutcliffe, right, and comedian Duggie Brown. The role led to Kirkbride being cast as Deirdre in Corrie.

Her first acting break came while she was working as a student assistant stage manager at Oldham Rep. Director Carl Paulson offered her full-time acting on £18 a week.

Anne Kirkbride filming with Clare Sutcliffe and Duggie Brown

Anne Kirkbride, left, filming with Clare Sutcliffe and Duggie Brown, October 1971

One of Granada TV’s biggest hits of 1970s was the beautifully scripted comedy series The Lovers. It starred 20-year-old Paula Wilcox as Beryl Battersby and Richard Beckinsale, aged 23, as Geoffrey Scrimshaw.

The show was written by Jack Rosenthal and ran for 13 episodes over two series from 1970. There was some memorable dialogue between the two young actors. Beryl referred to Geoffrey as ‘Geoffrey bubbles bonbon’ and sex as ‘percy filth’.

Paula Wilcox and Richard Beckinsale filming The Lovers

Paula Wilcox and Richard Beckinsale in The Lovers, October 1970

Bury singer-songwriter Peter Skellern made a big impact in the 1970s. In 1972, his debut single You’re a Lady reached Number One in the UK charts. Another single, Hold On to Love, reached Number 14 in 1975.

In 1973, he sang the theme song for the TV series Billy Liar.

Skellern returned to his northern roots – the backyards and alleyways of industrial towns – in September 1979 to film a BBC TV series on brass bands.

Peter Skellern in a backyard alleyway

Bury singer-songwriter Peter Skellern, September 1979

The singing may not have been quite so tuneful when players from Lancashire County Cricket Club crammed into Strawberry Studios in Stockport in June 1972. The players were producing a promotional track for the 1972 season.

Strawberry Studios is famous for nurturing the song-writing and recording talent of local band 10cc. Other artists who recorded there over the years included Neil Sedaka, the Smiths, Joy Division and Barclay James Harvest.

Lancashire players recording a song

Lancashire County Cricket Club recording at Strawberry Studios, June 1972

The iconic musical Hair came to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, in February 1970. Notorious for its nude scene, profanity and depiction of the use of illegal drugs, Hair came to symbolise the hippie culture of the late 1960s.

Our picture shows actor Paul Barber at the top of the cast pile. He became famous as Denzil in Only Fools and Horses and played Sam Ubootu in the ITV Playhouse drama Lucky made by Granada TV.

Four songs were cut from the original musical for the film version of Hair in 1979. One new song, Somebody to Love, was added.

Manchester Cast of Musical 'Hair' rehearsing

Manchester cast of the musical Hair at the Palace Theatre, February 1970

Belle Vue played host to many famous performers in the 1970s, but perhaps none so diverse as David Cassidy and The Clash!

Cassidy was arguably the number one teen pin-up of the early 1970s. He’d established his wholesome image on the TV show The Partridge Family and was riding high in the charts when he played Belle Vue to hordes of screaming fans in March 1973.

In 1972, Cassidy recorded UK hits with How Can I Be Sure, which went to Number One, Could It Be Forever (Number Two) and Rock Me Baby (Number 11).

David Cassidy during his concert at Belle Vue, Manchester

Teen idol David Cassidy plays Belle Vue, March 1973

Punk rock group The Clash erupted on to the music scene in 1976. They played the Elizabethan Ballroom at Belle Vue in November 1977 as part of their 32-date Get Out of Control tour of the UK, Ireland, Sweden and Germany.

Our photo shows, from left, drummer Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, bassist Paul Simonon and lead guitarist Mick Jones.

Their set included the hit London’s Burning, as well as Complete Control, Clash City Rockers and Hate and War.

The Clash pictured at the Elizabethan ballroom Belle Vue in Manchester

The Clash at the Elizabethan Ballroom, November 1977

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