Book tells the story of Mr Variety Club

THE story of the man who brought the famous Variety Club to Batley has been told in a new book written by one of his friends.

Maureen Prest, the club’s promotions and PR manager during its heyday in the 60s and 70s, has told the rags-to-riches story of James Corrigan.

Acts such as Louis Armstrong, the Everly Brothers, Gene Pitney, Eartha Kitt, Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey, Ken Dodd, Lulu and The Bee Gees all graced the stage at the Batley Variety Club.

Maureen, who lives in Birstall, was a close friend and confidant and said: “I went to work for him shortly after the club opened.

“He expected everyone to give 110 per cent – and we were happy to do it.

“It was his vision that the north should have some top-class entertainment.

“There were no grants; if you had an idea you went for it.”

At its height, the club was drawing audiences of 2,500 and had a membership of 300,000.

“James had charisma, personality and impeccable manners,” said Maureen.

“Once he started getting the stars in, they all wanted to be there.

“He was a showman who was always looking for the next big thing.

“Kirklees Council ought to do something to recognise what he did for the area.

“It was an amazing piece of social engineering. James was very brave because he put a lot on the line.

“Thankfully it paid off, not just for him but for the whole area.”

Maureen, who also worked as a theatrical agent, artist promoter and record producer, said of the book: “It is James’ life story. I’ve wanted to write it for a long time.”

King of Clubs will be launched at 11am on Friday, March 24, at Batley Town Hall – two days before the 50th anniversary of the opening of Batley Variety Club.

It is also available to order online from www.route-online.com, priced £14.99 for a signed edition.

James Corrigan died in 2000, having made and lost his fortune.

The Variety Club closed in the early 1980s and became the Frontier nightclub, which shut down last year and is now set to become a gym.

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