New book celebrates 50 years since Sheffield's legendary Fiesta nightclub opened
Fiesta was the biggest nightclub in Europe and the only UK venue ever considered to host Elvis.
From the moment the Fiesta cabaret club first opened its doors in 1970, the biggest artists in the world queued to perform for audiences.
The £500,000 purpose-build venue on Arundel Street became a byword for glitz and attracted massive American stars like Stevie Wonder, the Beach Boys, the Jacksons and the Four Tops and was that sure of its pulling power it even held a date open for Elvis.
Elvis did not perform but it has been widely acknowledged that the Fiesta came closer than any other venue in the UK to landing the elusive gig, he never performed in the UK but his manager even sent a member of staff up to the venue to check out its suitability.
Historian Neil Anderson has written a new book documenting the club’s glamourous history; Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1970s Sheffield – the Fiesta Edition.
He said: “It’s still hard to imagine such a venue existed in Sheffield. It was the epitome of glitz – it was like having a slice of Las Vegas on Arundel Gate.
“I’m indebted to scores of former staff, clubgoers and artists – without their help I’d never have been able to complete my latest project.
“The book is packed with rare pictures, memories and anecdotes that take you straight back to an era when a chicken-in-a-basket meal was all that stood between you and the biggest stars on the planet.”
Employment at the Fiesta became the most sought after jobs anywhere says Neil and the Fiesta had over 100 staff and an auditorium capacity of 1,300.
One former member of staff said: “I absolutely loved working there. It was how I imagined London or Las Vegas to be at the time. I got to meet so, so many big names.
“And so many of the stars were performing here for one or two weeks so they’d get to know us all really well as they’d actually be living in Sheffield.
“I saw so many acts perform. Tommy Cooper was always a big hit with the audiences. But he could be a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character depending on whether he’d had a drink or not – and he really liked a drink. He’d regular turn up with an entire holdall of it.
“I remember Alvin Stardust being the epitomy of charm to everyone. In fact before his show he’s regularly give all of the bar staff a single red rose. He’d then get up and perform with that black leather glove on. What a showman!”
Such was the size and high spec of the Fiesta it reputedly fell way behind schedule on the run up to its launch.
Indeed the Sheffield Star first speculated about it opening at the back end of 1968.
In December 1967 it said: “Competition on the Sheffield nightscene may become a hard fought campaign with the opening of a 2,000 capacity club late next year.”
They were originally hoping to open before the Cavendish was unveiled on nearby Bank Street but it did not happen.
Doug Oxspring remembers being one of a select group charged with driving the stars around.
The Beach Boys were undoubtably one of the biggest acts to perform in the early days of the club.
Many say it was the show that proved Club Fiesta was truly an industry leader.
Doug Oxspring collected the band from Manchester airport in November 1970. It wa s nott unusual when the group asked if there was anywhere of note worth visiting in the area as part of their stay. He suggested he took them for an afternoon’s site seeing in the Peak District.
“On the Monday I drove them to Castleton and they fell in love with the Castle pub but the biggest thrill was reserved for the Saturday night.
“After the show Brian Wilson signed autographs on the way out and then indicated to me he was ready to go. My taxi was parked in Arundel Gate and he asked if he could get in the front.
“It was against regulations to carry passengers alongside me but he said he had always wanted to ride in the front of a London-style black cab so I let him climb in.
“He asked if I would drive him through the Christmas illuminsations and after we had done that he said, “Lets do a fare and pick up some passengers”.
“We drove into Fitzallen Square where there were queues of people waiting to get home and most of them had been to the Fiesta for the night. Two couples climbed in the back and were talking about the show, saying how fabulous the Beach Boys had been.
“Little did they know Brian Wilson was sitting in the front listening to every word and giving me the thumbs up sign!
“When I dropped them off in Gleadless I asked them again how good the show had been. When they said it had been a fantastic night, I said: ‘You might know this man here then’, and Brian Wilson turned round to look at them.
“They tried to chase after us but we drove back to Sheffield and Brian must have been in the cab for the next couple of hours; he thoroughly enjoyed himself and I’m sure he would remember that night in Sheffield.”
‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1970s Sheffield – The Fiesta Edition’ is available now at just £13.95 from www.dirtystopouts.com
It is also on sale from Atkinsons of Sheffield and Amazon