Posts Tagged ‘Brian Potter’

The first time I ever heard the term “working men’s club” was in the movie, The Full Monty which led me to believe that these establishments hosted activities  of questionable taste and standards.  Amusing yes, but still questionable.

Unlikely lads getting their kit off at the working men’s club.

That was before I watched a series with a more, let’s say, comprehensive portrayal of the WMCs called Phoenix Nights. Now I see these clubs are an attempt to be all things to all (working class) people.  Pub, senior center, rehearsal hall, amateur talent showcase, practice structure for the fire brigade…the list goes on and on.  For owner, wheelchair-bound Brian Potter, The Phoenix Club is his life.  After several failed attempts with other clubs, his burning (pun intended) ambition is to see the The Phoenix Club soar victorious over rival establishment, The Banana Grove.

The friendly staff of the Phoenix Club

In addition to the “inspirational” leadership of Mr. Potter, it takes a whole team of dedicated people behind to scenes to successfully run a major community entertainment destination. There’s compere (that’s a master of ceremonies to us Yanks)/crooner/ and bingo caller, Jerry St. Clair; mysterious and possibly dangerous DJ and handyman, Ray Von; exotic-sounding house band, Les Alanos, comprised of Les and Alan (us); sweet and naive cleaner, Holy Mary; and Max and Paddy, the mostly useless doormen.  Faced with the reality that the working men’s club is a dying breed, this crew of dreamers works together to preserve a beloved social institution…and their paychecks.

Admittedly it must be a difficult balancing act.  The majority of members at these clubs are pensioners;

The regulars at your typical working men’s club

however, in order to keep its head above water, The Phoenix  needs to draw in new and younger clientele.  The staff attempts to bridge the generation chasm with an alternative comedy show, a singles night and a Robot Wars competition.  The Wild West themed evening, which was inspired by the unexpected loan of a mechanical bull, was going better than expected until a rigged shoot out between Yorkshire and Lancashire patrons got out of hand.

I found it particularly amusing that Brian and company were mixing their historical eras – Wild West is meant to indicate cowboys and Indians, but there seemed to be quite a few Civil War references including the Confederate Flag and the singing of “I Wish I Was in Dixie.”


Not This







I know it’s not really my place to judge as my mastery of English history is utter crap.  To be fair there’s so much more of it.

But I digress.  Unfortunately, real working men’s clubs are going the way of some other long held British institutions.  Traditional pubs are closing in alarming numbers; Morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows are foreign to most young Brits; and I don’t believe fish and chips is wrapped in newspaper anymore.  Something about the ink, I understand.  The WMCs were a place where the ordinary man and his family were full participants and in charge.  They provided opportunities for socializing, education and, at one time, even charitable assistance for the working classes.  In addition many comedians, musicians and other cabaret performers got their start in the clubs… just not these particular ones.

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