Jane McDonald, Shirley Bassey and other celebrities who made it from the Yorkshire Club Circuit

Yorkshire’s Working Men’s Clubs have given a platform to some of the UK’s biggest home-grown stars from Dame Shirley Bassey to Jane McDonald.

The leisure and recreation hubs for the working class may be struggling, but at one point they were the place to be for those working in entertainment.

One of the most notable acts inspired The Full Monty film as it was at Shiregreen Working Men’s Club where a group of steel workers became amateur strippers.

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It has also been a breeding ground for many comedians, musicians and singers such as Jane McDonald.

Best friends Jane McDonald and Sue Ravey met on the Working Men's Club Circuit.Best friends Jane McDonald and Sue Ravey met on the Working Men's Club Circuit.
Best friends Jane McDonald and Sue Ravey met on the Working Men's Club Circuit.

The 59-year-old - who shot to fame on BBC’s The Cruise – started her career on the working men’s club circuits which is where she met her best friend, PA and now housemate Sue Ravey.

Jane, who talks fondly about being born and raised in Yorkshire, said: “Coming from a working class Yorkshire means value, home and love."

Working Men’s Clubs began in the 19th century providing a public house, leisure and recreation space for the working class.

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As CAMRA’s website says: “From the mid nineteenth century, inspired by the popularity of ‘Gentlemen’s Clubs’ and in an attempt to curtail and control the leisure activities of the working class, the Working Men’s Club was born.”

Similarly to the working men’s club movement, supper clubs inspired Jimmy Corrigan to set up the Batley Variety Club.

Batley Variety Club was Yorkshire’s most well known club for breeding celebrities from an unlikely setting.

There had been cabaret clubs before – the Kon-Tiki, Wakefield, and the Ace of Clubs in Leeds – but Batley trumped them all.

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You had to pay 5s 6d a year to join, but beer came at pub prices. It was a posh night out for the masses.

The Batley club at its peak staged concerts by performers including the Bee Gees, Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, Eartha Kitt and Louis Armstrong.

The 1960s Theatre Club is a step up from the Working Men's Clubs.

While The Batley Variety Club which became the frontier club is now closed, there are plenty of acts still enjoying the platforms Yorkshire’s down to earth clubs offer.

There’s even a band now from Yorkshire called Working Men’s Club.

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