Newcastle-under-Lyme DJ amongst residents who recall revelry and romance at iconic nightclub

6 JULY 2017

Elizabeth Vincent, believed to be Newcastle’s first female club DJ, is amongst local residents who have been invited to step back inside legendary former nightclub, Maxims, which occupied the town’s oldest building, on Lower Street, from 1969 to 2006. Responding to a memories appeal led by care village operator Belong and the New Vic Theatre, Elizabeth told of how she became a DJ.

She said: “I was on a girls night out in Maxims on a Wednesday in 1985. I remember clearly we’d arrived before 10:30pm for free admission and a friend drew my attention to an advert on the noticeboard for a DJ vacancy. I had no experience, but possessed an avid passion for music so I applied. At my interview, the parting shot from Jim, the manager, was ‘So, when can you start!?!’

“I began as a warm-up for Paul Anthony, progressing to my own night upstairs – the floor for ‘dance music enthusiasts’, with downstairs being more party pop. When playing records of longer duration, I could even sneak onto the dance floor myself – that’s living the dream!

“I retain happy memories of the iconic Maxims, its friends and the romances that started there. I’m delighted there will be a gallery dedicated to the building’s history.”

In the 80s, female DJs were still a rarity. Although there are records of female DJs working at clubs in surrounding towns in the 70s, no mention of a female DJ in Newcastle has been found before Elizabeth. Anyone who thinks they know otherwise is invited to get in touch.

Thanks to a £1.8m grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund, pioneering care village operator Belong is transforming the 17th century building which once housed Maxims into The Belong Heritage Gallery. The facility will document the building’s history and be a centre for world-leading dementia care, as part of a wider care village development on the site.

Memories are being shared with Belong and the New Vic in response to their Maxims Live! campaign, which aims to turn people’s memories of the building’s past into a live show, to be performed at the gallery when it opens, as well as at Newcastle’s New Vic Theatre.

Other people who came forward to share their memories recalled Maxims in its heyday in the 1970s, when groups of friends would head there after the pubs closed. Tracy Paine, operations director at Belong, was one of those people. She said: “Maxims was the place to go in Newcastle and people used to come from surrounding towns and villages to stay out late after the pubs closed. Of all the nightclubs in the area, Maxims was the most popular. It had the best DJs and the best music.”

The prevailing fashions of the times were also fondly recalled. “In the late 70s, the club was called Sammi Belles. I remember wearing platform shoes and flares, and I had very long hair.

“I went to Maxims for my hen party in 1982 in a bright pink jumpsuit, joined by many of my student nurse colleagues from the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary and City General.”

Some memories go further back in time. One man, Brian Parry, surprised everyone by revealing he was born on the third floor of the historic property in September 1938 when it was still The Old Pomona Inn. His father was the landlord of the inn at the time.

Paul Parry also worked at Maxims from 1982 to 1985 and recalled the atmosphere: “I worked as a bar man at Henry’s Bar in Maxims. It was a great place to work, and everyone got along. There was a real sense of camaraderie. It really didn’t feel like work at all. It was like a night out but you got paid.”

The next step in turning these memories into a live show will be to hold creative writing workshops to produce a script. Rehearsals will then take place later in the year. Finally, the show will be performed at both the New Vic Theatre and the Belong Heritage Gallery when it opens in early 2018. Belong and the New Vic Theatre are still asking for stories about the former nightclub’s past. You can share your memories by emailing: maximsmemories@belongheritagegallery.org.uk

As well as the Belong Heritage Gallery, Belong Newcastle will incorporate 28 apartments for independent living and six 24-hour care households. A village hub will provide access to amenities, including a hair salon, bistro and exercise studio, as well as providing specialist day care. It is due to open in early 2018.