A potted history of the Carleton: Student nights, Tyson Fury, Darth Vader and cheap beer

The Carleton in 2002. Note the blackboard advertising DJ Pep and cheap drinks!
The Carleton in 2002. Note the blackboard advertising DJ Pep and cheap drinks!
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GREG LAMBERT recalls happy memories of the Carleton as the Morecambe nightclub prepares to open one last time.

The Carleton was once described to me as a ‘marmite venue’. People either loved or hated it.

Nicola Oxlade who was crowned Miss Morecambe 2007 at the Carleton.

Nicola Oxlade who was crowned Miss Morecambe 2007 at the Carleton.

Some thought it was tatty and rundown. But for many others, the Carleton was much more than a dingy West End nightclub. It had character and was many things to many people.

When the club reopens for one night only on January 30 before shutting for good to become flats, its farewell will nod to a legendary reputation for dance music ‘all-nighters’.

A sell-out of 1300 will reclaim their youth on the dancefloor to K-Klass, Dream Frequency, ‘MC Jester’ Lee Watson and others who keep the spirit of the rave generation alive.

But The Carleton was much more than Shokk, Passion and those heady house and techno nights of the 1990s.

The Devious Soul Machine.

The Devious Soul Machine.

It was also a home for rock, blues, indie, big band and disco. Gigs by young local acts and celebrity names. Scooter weekends and Northern Soul. Gentlemans nights, ladies nights, iconic student nights with cheesy tunes, crazy foam parties and the outrageous DJ Pep. Snooker, darts, big-screen football, boxing, wrestling, roller skating. Children’s Christmas parties, sportsman’s dinners, beer festivals, functions for all ages. It even welcomed the Most Haunted Live cameras and the Miss Morecambe beauty contest. And it was where the Morecambe FC players headed to celebrate long into the night after their Wembley win in 2007.

Then there were the cheap drinks. Thursday nights when bottled lager was £1. Fondly remembered by those who CAN remember.

If you live around here and don’t have a story to tell of a night at the Carleton, you’re a rarity.

My uncle John Lambert, a drummer on the 1970s local music scene, recalls the cabaret era when he performed with The Jan Brzezinka Big Band and with TV comedians like George Roper, Roy Walker and Melling’s own Jim Bowen.

Morecambe FC players celebrate at the Carleton on the night of their Wembley win in 2007.

Morecambe FC players celebrate at the Carleton on the night of their Wembley win in 2007.

Tracey Hosker remembers working behind the bar for longtime owners the O’Briens and watching Jimmy James and the Vagabonds.

Netty Hewitt hails those local soul music legends The Devious Soul Machine who regularly packed out The Carleton in the 80s and 90s.

Phillip Dixon has fond memories of 1990s Sunday night happy hours and ‘buy one get one free’ between 7pm and 8pm, followed by live music from Freeway, the bar shutting at 10.30pm and a mad dash to queue for taxis.

And Morecambe DJ Steve Middlesbrough still laughs about the time he hosted a music video party in 1983 dressed as Darth Vader. As a sci-fi music medley darkened the mood, Steve began twirling a toy lightsaber in the DJ booth with the utmost seriousness, only for the end of the lightsaber to fall off. As six batteries rolled across the dancefloor, Steve wanted the ground to open and swallow him...

Tim Witherspoon and Alan Lingwood box at the Carleton in 2008.

Tim Witherspoon and Alan Lingwood box at the Carleton in 2008.

That’s the kind of story the Carleton was all about. It never took itself too seriously.

For me, the Carleton was Thursday nights in 1992 dancing to Ebeneezer Goode and Rhythm is a Dancer. It was 1980s revival nights dancing to Tainted Love and Come on Eileen. It was memorable gigs by Madness tribute One Step Behind, and Morecambe groups The Heartbreaks and The Bottlenecks who brought the house down one year at a raucous Visitor Christmas party. It was the mecca of Morecambe boxing where Marcus Duncan won the Central Area Title, Lee Woodruff made his comeback, Ma Murphy’s pub landlord Colin Smith donned the gloves and Heysham security firm boss Alan Lingwood fought ex-world heavyweight champ ‘Terrible’ Tim Witherspoon. It was where I interviewed snooker legend Steve Davis while he taught kids how to play and where I first met Morecambe’s own world champ Tyson Fury, as he sat towering behind me on the stage cheering on his cousin Walter on an amateur boxing show.

George Best, Rodney Marsh, Fiz from Coronation Street, Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners, even England football manager Sir Bobby Robson. They all appeared at the Carleton. They are all part of its history.

This supposedly tatty, rundown, dingy nightclub has many happy memories for me and many others from all walks of life, not just in Morecambe and Lancaster, but all across the country.

And beyond, too.

It will be sad to see it go.

Jim Bowen was one of many celebrities to perform at the Carleton.

Jim Bowen was one of many celebrities to perform at the Carleton.

Farewell to Morecambe nightclub is hottest ticket in town