Do you remember the glory years of the place?

It’s an image that sums up another time, another place: a couple twirling athletically, their faces etched in concentration, as they perform Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again.

The photo was taken at Aberdeen’s legendary Beach Ballroom during a competition 60 years ago and, long before Strictly attracted massive audiences and courted celebrities, this venue was one of the gems of the crown of the northeast cultural scene.

Generations of Aberdonians have flocked through the doors of the Art Deco building, which opened in 1929, and it’s not hard to understand its appeal.

After all, it has one of the finest floors in Scotland – famous for its bounce – which floats on fixed steel springs and provides the perfect backdrop for everything from ballroom dancing to disco moves and graceful dresses to sparkling balls.

Over the years it has hosted a plethora of music and dance events, conferences, weddings, charity concerts such as Courage on the Catwalk and Brave, and has also been used for British Masters Boxing fights.

A fountain once cascaded down the middle of the dance floor while its 12-piece resident band played the classic songs associated with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Then, eventually, as the ballroom’s reputation grew, bands such as The Beatles, The Who, and Pink Floyd signed up for gigs.

But, as its name suggests, it is best known for those with dancing feet.

Aberdeen’s famous Beach Ballroom opened in 1929.

The Press & Journal was among those impressed with the sleek structure, which was built as part of the £50,000 Beach Improvement Scheme, after its design was deemed a winner in a competition organized by Aberdeen Town. Advice.

The official opening on May 3, 1929 takes the form of a grand masked ball and carnival with eclectic (and often politically incorrect) costumes ranging from the court of Louis XIV to Sioux Indians, harlequins and shepherdesses.

The newspaper reported on the “brilliant launch of the city’s new dance hall”, hailed the “gay masquerade crowds” and hailed the architects’ vision.

Quite simply, the beach was where the boy met the girl.

Sam Gil

He continued: “The beach ballroom opened in a blaze of glory and masquerades in countless forms came to the ball which was held to mark the occasion and gave a show like one. rarely seen in Aberdeen.

“Hundreds of people had gathered in front of the classical facade of the hall to watch the arrival of the dancers and the automobiles had to be driven along an avenue carved out of the middle of the crowd by police officers.

George and Jessie Fraser compete in the Nationals at the Beach Ballroom in 1955.
George and Jessie Fraser compete in the Nationals at the Beach Ballroom in 1955.

“The Lady Provost was loudly applauded as she rose to declare the hall open. The people of Aberdeen, she said, kept the eyes of the civic fathers fixed on the happiness and prosperity of the city and its advancement.

“They recognized that Aberdeen had, in its magnificent beach and promenade, an asset of the highest value and something that should be cherished. And the already popular area would only be boosted by the splendid new ballroom.

Within weeks, word had spread of this new facility, easily accessible by car or bus.

And, despite the Great Depression that afflicted the world in the 1930s, crowds still flocked to the venue for special dances, both of a traditional variety and encompassing the dances of the new jazz era.

Laura Courtney was one of the featured dancers at the Beach Ballroom.
Laura Courtney was one of the featured dancers at the Beach Ballroom.

During World War II, the building was requisitioned by the military, but there were heady scenes when it reopened just before Christmas on December 23, 1946.

The ballroom floor, which floats on 1,400 steel springs, was originally maple, but was redone after the conflict and young men and women flocked to the ballroom.

One, Susan Rennie, a 27-year-old nurse from Aberdeen, told the Evening Express she fell in love with her boyfriend, Albert, as they danced to big band standards from Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.

She said: “We didn’t have much time to have fun during the war, and we missed each other when Bert was away fighting.

“But it’s wonderful that we’re together again and dancing without a care in the world.”

They weren’t the only ones getting hit as they sashayed.

Sam and Sheila Gill were another couple whose footsteps led to heaven and romance. And, as the Evening Express reported in 1995, the beach ballroom has been as long and enduring a part of her life as her happy marriage.

Indeed, he was the man who helped lead the venue through many stages of its history and took it all in his stride with the agility one would expect of such an accomplished dancer.

The emblematic place photographed in 1948.
The emblematic place photographed in 1948.

As the newspaper reports: “Sam, 74, retired in 1984 after more than three decades with the ballroom, during which he hosted royal visits and A-list stars, including the Beatles ( who played a concert there in 1963).

“Mr. Gill started in the ballroom as a maintenance carpenter in 1949 and, aided by a keen interest in the entertainment and catering side of the business, he rose through the ranks to assistant manager in 1962 and director in 1977.

“Large groups formed the backbone of ballroom bookings with Joe Loss and Victor Sylvester appearing on the poster. The Beatles performed for £45 before embarking on a meteoric rise to fame in the months that followed.

“Mr Gill said: ‘Quite simply, the beach was where the boys met the girls.

“Back when the pubs closed at 9.30pm it was worth going down to the beach for that extra hour.”

Couples dance to the sound of the Syd Lawrence Band at the Beach Ballroom.

He added, as he and Sheila celebrated their golden anniversary: ​​”It was at the old Palace of Dance (in Diamond Street) where we first met in 1941.

“We danced for most of the evening and, well, you know, right? Once we got together and started dating, we realized we were pretty settled. And here we are, 50 years later, and we’re still dancing at the Beach.

Tastes and fashions have changed drastically over the past 90 years, but the Beach Ballroom has responded positively to new trends and musical styles, as a look through the archives illustrates.

There’s the moment when Monday Night Fever was staged in September 1979 as local youngsters danced for a place in the final of the British Disco Championship; and where Tartan Travoltas and northeast Newton-Johns joined the party.

And the Peterhead Community Center team took part in the Scottish Senior Disco-dance competition on location in October 1985 when Debra Watson, Fiona Anderson, Angela Grieve, Nicola Fraser, Julie Cruickshank and Diane Cowie drew rave reviews from judges and the crowd.

Former Scotland and Manchester United footballer Denis Law was granted the city there in 2017 and went on to explain how places such as the Beach Ballroom had remained in his heart since his childhood in Granite City, even he had lived for many years in Manchester.

Predictably, the building is now “tired” and “showing signs of wear and tear”, according to Aberdeen City Council officials.

More than 15,000 people lined Union Street in 2017 to see Denis Law receive the Freedom Of Aberdeen.
Denis Law received the Freedom of Aberdeen at Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom in 2017.

But the local authority recently unveiled plans for dramatic upgrades, which they are confident will help restore the ballroom to its former glory.

They want the Main Ballroom to be ‘reimagined’ into a multi-purpose event space, which would be linked to improved leisure facilities and the construction of a possible new stadium for Aberdeen FC.

And why not? As Mr. Hill said all those years ago: ‘The Beach IS Aberdeen’.

  • If you have any memories of the Aberdeen Beach Ballroom (did you and your partner meet there and fall in love?) or any other dance venue in the city, please let us know to [email protected]

Revealed: New images show future plans for Aberdeen beach

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[Do you remember the venue’s glory years?]


About Octavia A. Dorr

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