The Sixties revisited

Clubbers on the balcony of The Esquire
Clubbers on the balcony of The Esquire
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THE year was 1960 and the teenager’s response to The Star reporter was unambiguous.

“I just don’t know, man,” he said after being asked in the weekend supplement what he was doing that night. “What is there to do in Sheffield? It’s a real dump of a place. There’s nowhere to go. There’s no night life here.”

It was a reply which, just 10 years later, would have been unimaginable.

For, as a new book shows, 1960s Sheffield was perhaps one of the most exciting cities in the UK – a heady mix of dancing clubs, music venues and one-time gas fitters called Joe Cocker getting to number one in the UK charts.

This was the era The Beatles played Gleadless, The Kinks played Pitsmoor and grammar school girls played truant to mix with beatniks – or layabouts, as the older generation knew them – in Chapel Walk’s Sidewalk Café.

And it is all charted in the Dirty Stop Out Guide To 1960s Sheffield by city author Neil Anderson. It is his latest tome and the prequel to his hugely successful Dirty Stop Out’s Guide To 1970s Sheffield.

“There have been books on the city in this era before,” says the 45-year-old. “But nothing which has tied the various teenage scenes together and got under the skin of the period.

“People have such a fondness for the 1960s, and this was an attempt to find the real stories from the people who were there.”

Chief among their memories are Sheffield’s earliest nightspots, including Club 60 in Shalesmoor, the Esquire on Leadmill Road, and King Mojo in Burngreave Road, Pitsmoor.

The fashion boutiques, including Lift Up Your Skirt & Fly, record shops like Violet May, and instrument stores such as Wilson Peck are also fondly recalled through archive material and oral histories.

The Beatles’ links to Sheffield are explored (did you know manager Brian Epstein’s mother was actually a Steel City lass?) and there’s a look at Sheffield United Tours, the company which gave many youngsters their first holiday.

There are also first-hand accounts of the legendary 11.15pm bus whistle at Pond Street Station – a phenomenon which saw the city’s last buses all leave for the four corners of suburbia at exactly 11.15pm each Saturday.

“It was always a problem if you were with a girl,” recalls James Ravencroft. “You always wanted to do the decent thing and ensure she got on her bus but you were left with the distinct possibility of missing your own.”

“It’s little things like that that show how much has changed,” says Neil again.

“You couldn’t imagine a situation like that in today’s age of taxis and 24-hour drinking.

“In many ways it was a far more innocent age – even though at the time what these teenagers were doing was completely unheard of. The Sixties was a decade that changed everything.”

n Dirty Stop Out’s Guide To 1960s Sheffield, published, by ACM Retro, is available in The Star shop now, £12.95.