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Kevin and Enid
This was a roller disco at the tower ballroom for my 31st birthday party. I couldn't roller skate but it was a great night. This would have been 2014. Great memories of the roller discos.
Memories from Albion Court Care Home
I was part of a band called ‘Braindrain’, a collection of sixth-form pals, and in the summer of 1986, several of us returned from our respective Colleges, for a chance to regroup for a gig at the legendary Tower Ballroom. There was a rehearsal at Rich Bitch in Selly Oak (see pic) two days before, and then the gig itself was on Friday 12th Sept at the Ballroom.
The Tower and it felt cavernous, especially with the modest fan-base of the three booked bands. Décor was Club Tropicana-style; plastic palm trees & iridescent pineapples ...or were they coconuts? Anyway, I’d heard of places like this but didn’t believe they really existed. It was comically incongruous for our raucous set-list. The first band on were called ‘Beyond Elysium’ I have a vague memory of the fanciful, Goth-inspired flyers they were handing out and they were influenced by the Sisters of Mercy. The second band were a Proggy-Rock outfit from B'ham Uni called 'Izzy the Push', whose set went miles over time, thanks to their penchant for 19-min guitar solos. I’m not sure whether we were officially headlining, or whether we’d drawn the short-straw, because the evening felt interminable. By the time we made it onstage, sometime around 1am, there was scarcely half an hour before kicking-out time, the audience had missed their buses and were already starting to drift…
We set up our kit backstage on the Tower’s revolving stage, but because we were running out of time we had to start playing immediately the stage started to revolve. When the stage finally juddered to a halt, both us and the gear nearly toppled over, and we found ourselves stood with our backs to the audience.
We were supposed to be a 9 piece band that night, but one of the vocalists, Pete, had been dumped by his girlfriend earlier in the evening, and we think he was too wrecked to make it on stage?
The band’s wordsmith, Mr. Soul, recorded the event for posterity on his portable cassette player - hence the limited quality of the recording. He did his best to turn it into ‘mock-stereo’ in post-production, but for maximum listening pleasure, he recommends “Just pretend you are listening to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. “ https://soundcloud.com/dave-dinsdale/sets
There would have been another Braindrain gig a fortnight later at The Mermaid, but we turned up to find out it double booked, so all went home again.
With thanks to the erstwhile members Braindrain for their memories of that night. In memoriam drummer John Bryant, who sadly left us in 2017.
Laura Onions / Birmingham Opera Company
I had never seen an opera before, it defied all my expectations. We danced and sung around the dancefloor to a live orchestra.
The first and last time I will ever wear a fascinator (2).💅
My granny came and could not distinguish between the actors and audience members, this is the magic of Birmingham Opera. (3)🤷🏻♀️
We had a huge conga through the building at a terrible wedding (4)💃🏽🕺🏻
Arthur and Noreen "Child rescue at the reservoir"
A Memory of the Tower Ballroom
Submitted by Jane Cross on behalf of Neil Harrison
Neil’s Parents were Arthur and Noreen Harrison, who lived in the 1st Floor Gatehouse Flat at 115 Reservoir Road. They had taken over the flat in c1951 from Arthur’s sister Anne and her husband Sydney Cox, Sydney having been the manager of the Butlin’s amusement park next to the Ballroom. Anne and Sydney’s son David Cox has also submitted memories and photos for this archive of memories.
Neil has shared this lovely picture of Arthur and Noreen at an event at the Tower Ballroom, year unknown:
In 1956, Arthur was awarded a Certificate from the Royal Humane Society, a copy is shown below. The citation reads:
“For having on the 5th May 1956 gone to the rescue of a child who was in imminent danger of drowning in the Edgbaston Reservoir, Edgbaston, Birmingham, and whose life he gallantly saved, thereafter restoring him to consciousness”
Arthur and Noreen emigrated to Australia with their son, Neil in the 1960’s and spent the rest of their lives there, and Neil still lives there. Arthur and Noreen only came back to the UK once, Neil is a more regular visitor and has visited the reservoir and the flat. Neil is immensely proud of both his parents, in particular the award that Arthur received.
I am almost 88 years old and in my early years of dancing I was a competitive ballroom dancer living in London. On many occasions, I travelled to Birmingham to compete at the Tower Ballroom, Birmingham. I remember it well. Since reaching 70, I together with my wife Pat have presented many charity social dances. In 2009 we opened the Tower Tea Dances with the then lessees of the Tower. The dances operated on a monthly basis until 2017.
The first tea dance was on 23rd September 2009 with an attendance of over 500 dancers(see report in the Birmingham Mail 24/9/20-Tea Dancing returns to Tower Ballroom. These dances were attended by social dancers from all around the Midlands including Cheltenham, Worcester, Leamington Spa, Stratford upon Avon, Nottingham, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Burntwood, Cannock and of course City of Birmingham.
In April 2016 we decided to bring a well known band to ballroom dancers, Ross Mitchell His Band and Singers who play annually at the Royal Albert Hall for the International Dance Championships. The event sold out and was a tremendous success. We therefore decided to repeat the event in April 2017. Again it was a sell out.
Both for the tea dances and the band events one of the attractions was the revolving stage. In the 1950s-1960s Mecca Dancing who took over the Tower introduced a revolving stage as they had in most of their ballrooms all over the UK. I think the one at the Tower, Birmingham was probably the last in existence. For the tea dances we always had two music providers. One on each side of the stage. Whoever was playing the music for dancing continued while the other music came round on the stage playing the same song. The dancing was therefore continuous. The stage should be preserved as a piece of history.
The very large dance floor and superb lighting was also a big attraction.
Memories from residents at Clare Court
Caleb Brown – ‘I used to go to the Tower Ballroom to dance, I would ask loads of girls to dance. It was around 1961-1962 that I used to go.’
Dorothy Bell – ‘I would dress myself up nice; me and my friend used to gat a taxi. I remember there was something like a bridge and there was water by it. I would do the Twist and Bepop where the man would spin the woman around.’
Kenneth Preston – ‘I used to catch the bus on Saturdays with my mates to the Tower Ballroom. I would do a lot of old town dancing like the Waltz.’
Margaret Barrett – ‘I remember the Tower Ballroom and I used to go on weekends with my workmates. I would dance the Tango and Calypso. I also knew a lot of people who got married there.
In the 1970s taxi drivers in Birmingham used to organise a Christmas party for children in care.
Image: Alan Jones
It culminated at ‘The Tower’ , Lady MacBeth of Smolensk, Birmingham Opera Company
For some weeks we came together and rehearsed singing, dancing and prancing about. We used our imagination to create scenarios and formed small groups to execute imaginary scenes. I’ve never worked as an actor with such a variety of volunteers before, every ability was accepted, every diverse and beautiful culture came together in one accord it was most refreshing. The first night of the actual show we all came alive and gave it our all, mimicking what it would actually have been like at the old Tower Ballroom, dancing scaring and cleaning scenes, integrating them with the opera Lady Macbeth.
Photo by Mac Joseph
Dr Michael Condon, OBE
My grandma and young uncle and aunt lived in Marroway Street off Icknield Port Road and during the WWII used the ‘Rezza’ for recreation, as did many local residents. I have a strong recollection of my aunt taking me to the Fair one Sunday afternoon, in 1945 perhaps. I must have been about 8 years old and had a fantastic time on the fair rides, particularly the Dragon up and down roundabout that I can see to this day in my mind’s eye.
As a teenager I joined the Sea Cadets which were based in Training Ship Vernon, a land based ‘ship’ close to the southern end of the dam wall just past the Tower Ballroom. Apart from learning seamanship, knots and so forth we had great fun competing in rowing races in the ship’s Dorys. We also acquired a fairly large open motor vessel, a ride in which was much coveted. Unfortunately, not too long after its acquisition it sank in a severe rainstorm. It was raised later and restored to use. Our family lived in Quinton and it was a difficult journey for me and a couple of local friends to parade at the Res on a Sunday morning as there was only a skeleton bus service on Sundays in those days. As we were in naval uniform, we sometimes received lifts from sympathetic motorists and occasionally ended up at the closed Icknield Port Road entrance rather than the main gate in Reservoir Road. That meant clambering over the high gate and security fence with a distinct possibility of dirtying or damaging your uniform and a resultant placement on fatigues!
As a teenager we also went to dances in the Tower Ballroom from time to time. It was a great barn of a place and very lively, but the acoustics were appalling, and it was almost impossible to hear anyone speak and carry on a conversation. So, all that was left to do was dance. Quite inelegant but very enjoyable all the same.
Looking at that corner of the res on Google Maps, the topography today has changed quite a bit. The Tower Ballroom was not close to the water and consisted only of the ‘main shed’ as I remember it in my day. The present, red-walled structure has been built since, apparently obstructing access to TS Vernon. To my surprise I see the latter still exists as a Sea Cadets and Royal Marines Cadets base, hidden behind the ballroom and less the ships Mast and Flags.
Albert and Ellen
I’m writing this for a friend who was born in 1930, and doesn’t use the internet.
Albert was born in the Saltley / Aston area. On Saturday nights he and 6 or 7 friends, around the ages of roughly 14 – 23, used to go dancing in the Tower Ballroom. In preparation they would go to the public baths, pay their 6d, wash their hair, and put on their clean, pressed Teddy Boy outfits. Albert’s was Airforce blue, his friends’ red or green, all with a velvet collar round the back of the neck. Their coats were long, down to the knees, and they had drainpipe trousers.
Their shoes had crepe soles, so if it rained, they had to carry them in a bag. If the soles got wet, they stuck to the floor, making a slurping sound as the heel was pulled off the ground.
The boys got there early to queue for the gents where they would comb their hair into the “Tony Curtis” style at the front, and DA at the back (Duck’s ‘bottom’). In the hall the girls stood on one side and the boys on the other. They paired off to dance to the Rumba band music. The dances were foxtrot, waltz, quickstep and later rock n roll.
They had the privilege of seeing big bands like Billy Cotton’s, Joe Loss’ and Victor Silvester’s.
At the end of the evening as they left the Ballroom there would be a man selling hot baked potatoes at 2d a bag. There was an American style coffee bar with high stools where they had fizzy drinks, and then took the girls home.
From an 89 year old ‘teenager’, Albert Coombes.
(View of gatehouse from Reservoir Roadd with Tower Ballroom banner)
This photo was taken in August 2009, when I made a nostalgic visit back to the reservoir. The building or lodge/gatehouse on the right was being used as Rangers’ offices in 2009. I was born in the upstairs flat of this gatehouse in 1949. Later in the 1950s, I vividly remember looking down from the first floor window in the early evening and seeing people arriving at the gate in the old cars of the 1950s for a ball in the ballroom at the side of the reservoir; the ladies were dressed in the evening dresses of the time and the men usually wore dinner jackets or similar formal clothes. I remember each car had to stop at the gate and the gateman, who I think lived in the ground floor flat, used to let them in presumably on receipt of a ticket. In those days I believe you either had to have permission or had to pay to enter the reservoir grounds so I suppose an event at the ballroom might have included the price of entry to the grounds and the dance.
(Mum and Dad at an event in Birmingham – late 1940s)
This is a photo of my Mum and Dad, Anne and Sydney Cox, at some kind of event in Birmingham in the late 1940s. My Dad managed the Butlin’s Amusement Park at the side of the reservoir just along from the ballroom. They lived in the upstairs flat of the reservoir gatehouse where I was born and they used to visit the ballroom and talked about it and the fun fair. I think the amusement park benefited from the ballroom events and maybe vice versa. The fun fair was a permanent fixture rather than a travelling fun fair. My Uncle Harry Harrison ran a candy floss machine within it for a short time. It was run by Butlin’s and my Dad had worked in their administrative offices in Skegness in the years prior to the war. The Amusement Park was located where the present car park is now.
(View of me in front of the gatehouse in 2009)
This is a photo of me at the back of the reservoir gatehouse/lodge taken by one of the reservoir rangers. It shows the upstairs room where I was born. During my nostalgic visit to the reservoir in August 2009 I realised that the building was being used by the rangers looking after the area. They kindly allowed me to look at the upstairs room where I was born and take photos of what by that time had become an office! They offered to take photos of me including this one in front of the building. I don’t think they had ever had this kind of request before!
In the mid fifties my parents could be found of a weekend at the Tower ballroom. It was very popular and everyone knew each other, Fridays it was packed and you wouldn't get in without a ticket.
The General Manager was Mr Dutton and he always looked after his regular customers. Cliff Price was the cloakroom attendant and Pop looked after the men's toilets.
The resident orchestra was led by Cliff Deeley with bands such as Ted Heath and Joe Loss making guest appearances playing the big band Glen Miller type of music popular for ballroom dancing in the 1950's.
The Tower was only licensed at weekends , so in the week the Tavern pub next door did a roaring trade.
The Tower was not a late night venue, it closed at 10.30/11.00 p.m., so afterwards there was a brisk walk back to Snow Hill for a hot dog and the night service bus home. Happy days!
Photo: My Mum and Dad, Jean and Brian with my Mums best friend Hilda and her fella Ralph on a Friday night out at the Tower ballroom 1956/57
Robert and Gillian
This is my amazing sister Gillian (deceased) when she used to be a member of the Tower band in the 1970s. Lots of great memories of going to see her belt out those wonderful 60s and 70 hits.
David Cox Full Story
I was born in April 1949 at 115 Reservoir Road, Birmingham. This used to be the gatehouse of the reservoir and my parents lived in the 1st floor flat because my Dad, Sydney Cox, managed the Butlin’s Amusement Park at the side of the reservoir just along from the ballroom. Although we moved away when I was one or two years old, we returned regularly to visit my Uncle and Aunt (Arthur & Noreen Harrison) who took over the flat after we left and stayed there until I was about 7 or 8 or 9. I therefore have some clear memories of that time.
I vividly remember looking down from the first floor window in the early evening and seeing people arriving at the gate in the old cars of the 1950s for a ball in the ballroom at the side of the reservoir; the ladies were dressed in the evening dresses of the time and the men usually wore dinner jackets or similar formal clothes. I remember each car had to stop at the gate and the gateman, who I think lived in the ground floor flat, used to let them in presumably on receipt of a ticket. In those days I believe you either had to have permission or had to pay to enter the reservoir grounds so I suppose an event at the ballroom might have included the price of entry to the grounds and the dance.
In the day-time we used to look out from the upstairs flat at the wonderful view across the reservoir to the trees on the opposite side. It was very quiet then probably because of the fee to enter. So very few people seemed to be walking around the reservoir as they would today and I suppose we felt that we had the place to ourselves.
I vaguely remember the ballroom being a much less high structure than the present Tower Ballroom and I think it was more ornate possibly made of wood. It seemed different in character from the modern building standing there today and also seemed to be further away from the lodge/gatehouse possibly in its own landscaped grounds.
I don’t remember the amusement park because I think it had closed shortly after we moved away (in 1950 or 51). I do know that my Dad managed this fun fair in the years after the war and that it was a permanent fixture rather than a travelling fun fair. My Uncle Harry ran a candy floss machine within it for a short time. It was run by Butlin’s and my Dad had worked in their accounts department in Skegness in the years prior to the war. He said that he was involved with the design of the first Butlin’s holiday camp in Skegness and had been offered the job at Edgbaston Butlin’s after returning from service in the RAF during the war. The Amusement Park was located where the present car park is now.
I made a nostalgic visit to the reservoir in August 2009 when the gatehouse was being used by the rangers looking after the area. They kindly allowed me to look at the upstairs room where I was born and take photos of what by that time had become an office! I don’t think they had ever had this kind of request before!
Arthur Lowe Story
Arthur Lowe - I used to live in Reservoir road 1950's. The Tower Ballroom was the 2nd most popular venue in the road. The 1st was number 73, where the Lowe's lived. My similar aged friends used to call at 73, to leave their coats. Cheaper than the tower and quicker to get back. After leaving the tower, loads of said friends would call in to 73, knowing my mother, Edie Lowe would welcome them with open arms and probably cook something for them. I met my wife at the tower and married her 1960. My sister Irene Lowe, now Staines met her boy friend there. Very happy memories from there. Sincerely Arthur Lowe.
I was the male singer with the resident Bobby Johnson Band (I sang under the stage name of Lee Stratton) at the Tower Ballroom in about 1976. Edwina Rigby was the female singer. We appeared five nights per week, playing everything from strict tempo dances to party nights. I do have a few photos and memorabilia which I need to sort out and could post on here later.
In addition to the big band, there was a group called Harvest, who appeared on the other side of the revolving stage.
I also worked there later with another band called Acquired Taste, when Harvest took holidays.
Many happy memories of my time there.