Disco at the New Yorker in downtown Swindon
This guest post has been triggered by an interaction with David Foster on Born again Swindonian’s Facebook page apropos the old canal bridge on Milton Road that is sadly and slowly going to rack and ruin. David was born in Swindon in 1943 and he has this lovely tale to tell about the New Yorker Discotheque which, in its day, used to be the place to be. Does anyone out there remember this?
“This is a brief resume, regarding the article on the state of the old Canal bridge Milton Rd, and the building on it, which was I believe once a law court. Before that it must have been some sort of warehouse for canal traffic, because there were lifting chains which protruded out over what was the canal. It must have been empty for some time, until a chap by the name of Mike Smith took over the lease, whereupon it became known as the New Yorker Discotheque.
I had my own window cleaning business in the town, started by an old friend Tom Beale, from the Beales Cafe fame at the bottom of Fleming Way. It was here I met Mike Smith a fruit machine operator, whose business was at the cross roads of Station Rd and Manchester Rd. I did various jobs for him like collections from pubs, clubs, cafés.
He mentioned one day that he was going to start a club in a building on Milton Rd bridge, and asked would I be interested in running the coffee bar. In those days you couldn’t get a drinks license where customers were under 21, and the type of clientele would be well under this age. But there was a catch. I would have to run the Cafe in Havelock street as well, on a 50-50 basis. In those days I was always looking to make something from somewhere so I accepted and so our partnership took off.
While the Discotheque was being developed and painted I carried on with my own thing. So it wasn’t until he told me the decorations were finished and I should have a look, that I saw, to my amazement, that the dance hall had been decorated to resemble a New York street scene on all four walls, and when the fluorescent lights were turned on it was just like walking on the side-walk, I had never seen anything like it!
The first night opened with the local band and Justin Hayward singing. Not long after that he moved on to be the front man for the Moody Blues fame and such songs as Nights in White Satin and many others. The first night didn’t do that well but within a week we were pulling in 200 and more. The word was out and we doing good business in the coffee bar as well – we’d order crates and crates of Pepsi, Coke and Fanta, and sometimes have to get extra deliveries.
As time went on we had better groups like, Geno Washington, The Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Chris Farlowe, and many more. One night there were so many in the building we had to close the doors – it had become that popular! As time went on Havelock street had a compulsory purchase order placed on most of, to make way for the new shopping centre.
The disco had been going for 3 years by then but it came into direct competition with the Brunel Rooms. I left in 1968 and took over another cafe in Calne.”
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