The Golden Torch

The Golden Torch, more commonly known as The Torch, was a mod nightclub in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, England. Located on Hose Street, behind the Sneyd Arms Hotel on Tower Square, the club was opened on 30 January 1965 by headliners Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Acts such as the Kinks and Wayne Fontana followed. Peter Stringfellow was amongst the many DJs to have had a residency there.[1]

The building started as a church, before becoming a roller skating rink, and in the 1940s, the Little Regent Cinema. It featured marble pillars and the compulsory balcony over looking the dance floor. Whilst retaining the original features the cinema was converted into a mod club by Christopher Burton, a contemporary of Ivor Abadi (founder of the Twisted Wheel club), and Russ Winstanley of Wigan Casino.[2] In 1967, after a performance by visiting soul music artists Inez and Charlie Foxx, the Golden Torch became a major soul venue with a similar clientele to Manchester’s Twisted Wheel.

After the closure of the Twisted Wheel in 1971, Chris Burton took up Keith Minshull’s suggestion Saturday northern soul all-nighters at the Torch, holding its first on 11 March 1972.[3] The Torch’s all-nighters proved a massive success, running from 8pm Saturday to 8am Sunday. Although the building was only designed to hold 500, a record 1300 people attended an all-nighter in 1973.[4] Artists who performed live included the Drifters, the Stylistics, Oscar Toney Jr, the Chi-Lites and Edwin Starr.[5]

However, it became a victim of its own success, with regular police presences, drug taking and over crowding. When the club came to renew its licence on 16 March 1973 Stoke-on-Trent council refused the renewal, without a licence the club simply faded away. The building has since burnt down in a fire, but (following a public appeal led by former club barman and part time DJ the late John O’Brien and friend Steve Hoskins[6]) a plaque now commemorates the club on Hose Street.[4] The closure paved the way for the Wigan Casino, which without any rivals became internationally famous as the UK’s foremostNorthern Soul club, until local council antipathy forced it too to close, in 1981.[7]

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