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Thread: Rialto Ballroom

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    Newbie jasper's Avatar
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    Default Rialto Ballroom

    The Rialto in Upper Parliament Street was a popular venue for ballroom dancing. If you wanted to dance on Sunday you had to join the Sunday Club.

    Monday night was dancer's night and all the dance teachers and competiion dancers used to go there for practice.


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    There must have been a fairly strict dress code because all the men wore their lounge suits and the ladies looked resplendent in their evening gowns. A new manager came in about 1960 and the Rialto started to go down hill with riff raff being allowed in.

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    Senior Member lindylou's Avatar
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    My grandmother told me about it. She loved ballroom dancing and she used to go there. She said the people would be dressed up so smart.

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    Senior Member Maggie May's Avatar
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    I also like ballroom dancing but dont get to do it much any more...I sometimes wish it was still like the 'old days' when people got dressed up to go out...ladies in lovely ball gowns and the men all dapper in their evening dress....

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    Senior Member taffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper View Post
    The Rialto in Upper Parliament Street was a popular venue for ballroom dancing. If you wanted to dance on Sunday you had to join the Sunday Club.
    Here's a photo of the old Rialto before it was torched in the 1981 riots

    http://toxteth.net/places/liverpool/...t%20street.htm

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    Senior Member squiggs's Avatar
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    My claim to fame ! is that I was on the 80 bus the night the riots broke out (the police stopped the bus and told us to get down on the floor) and the driver put his foot down and races past the Rialto, so I must have been one of the last people to see the building intact !.

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    Senior Member lindylou's Avatar
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    Friends of mine who lived in Sunnyside, Devonshire rd, had gone abroad on holiday for 2 weeks - had heard no local news at all - on returning home, got the shock of their lives to see Lodge lane smouldering and half gone !!

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    Newbie Dave H's Avatar
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    It was a strange day. Quiet. The sort of quiet you get when everyone holds their breath. Liverpool 8 after the fighting and before the Garden Festival. Picking up the pieces. Smelling of damp smoke and adrenalin.

    Walking down Princes Avenue, police pairs on every corner. Fresh faces drafted into a conflict they didn’t understand. Hanging around in the urban decay, quietly chatting about sheep on the fells and frightening old ladies with their aggressive politeness.

    Down past gutted shops. Temporary boarding that would become permanent sticky-plastering the gaping wounds of the multi-cultural shopping. Down past where my parents lived. Past the railings that broke a young back hit by an attack jeep.

    Crossing the line of battle, still scarred and littered, to Rialto corner. A shell long before it burned, storing second-hand furniture, but still a Gibraltar Rock in our landscape. Generations of local kids welcomed to Saturday matinees in the fantasy palace by dinner-suited and bow-tied managers. Gone now.

    Down the hill, past the streets of my childhood, named after slave traders and unlucky Victorian politicians. Down towards Hardman Street police station, now housing suspect troops, withdrawn to barracks.

    And, in the road, a young duck. Surprised at first, we try to capture it. The duck does not fly but shows an ability to dodge and weave worthy of George Best. Regroup. We form a line and organise a snatch squad. While some of us ‘beat our shields’, others rush forward to capture the youngster in a thrown coat.

    We take it into the police station, resisting a common urge to shout “Duck!”, and deposit with the desk sergeant. Solid, stoic and humourless, the sergeant fills in a lost property form and escorts the duck away to the cells.

    Further down the hill we emerge from the war zone. Life going on as it had. Survivors.

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    Newbie jasper's Avatar
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    Default Rialto

    I no longer live in Liverpool.

    All those people with their meaningless battle scars from a few days racial violence fail to impress me.

    The loss of the Rialto as a dance venue represents the destruction of a culture and a way or life that gave a kind of dignity and glamour to those of us who knew it and went there.

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    PhilipG
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    The dance hall wasn't lost because of the Riots.
    Surely it had closed years before.
    It became a bingo hall, but even that had closed well before the Riots.
    The Rialto was one of the rare cinemas in Merseyside to have a dance hall attached.
    There was the Capitol in Liscard, and the Plaza in Ainsdale, and I think that was the lot.
    There was the Odeon in London Road which had Victor Sylvester (remember him?) dancing lessons (or something) but that was in part of the cinema building (the cafe?).
    Last edited by PhilipG; 07-18-2008 at 03:41 PM.

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    What a fantastic bit of writing from Dave H. I sat enthralled as the sheer prose poetry revealed the bleakness of that time. Write on you wordsmith,you have something real to say,
    BrianD

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    Newbie Dave H's Avatar
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    Thanks Brian - too kind. The duck story is true and just seemed to add to the unreality.

    When the riots happened, the Rialto was just a shell of its former self. It had spent time as a bingo hall then closed. It was gutted by Swainbanks and was being used as a warehouse for second-hand furniture.

    I was never dancing there. I know that they had Twist competitions as well as ballroom dancing. As a child, I was a member of the famous Saturday Club and went to matinees. They used to send cards for your birthdays. In contrast to some other cinemas (Granby for example was a flea-pit) the Rialto was always smart and gleaming and the manager would dress up to greet the clientele (us scruffs) in the foyer. It seemed like a palace and was well respected locally.

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    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave H View Post
    Thanks Brian - too kind. The duck story is true and just seemed to add to the unreality.

    When the riots happened, the Rialto was just a shell of its former self. It had spent time as a bingo hall then closed. It was gutted by Swainbanks and was being used as a warehouse for second-hand furniture.

    I was never dancing there. I know that they had Twist competitions as well as ballroom dancing. As a child, I was a member of the famous Saturday Club and went to matinees. They used to send cards for your birthdays. In contrast to some other cinemas (Granby for example was a flea-pit) the Rialto was always smart and gleaming and the manager would dress up to greet the clientele (us scruffs) in the foyer. It seemed like a palace and was well respected locally.
    Swainbanks were in the cinema part.
    The furniture on the stage was for export (the best pieces) to the USA.
    The stepped seating area was still there and that was full of furniture that we residents could buy.
    It was so surreal.
    A wooden audience watching a wooden cast!
    If only I'd taken a photo!

    It's interesting that you call the Granby by that name.
    Officially it had been the Prince's since 1932, but it had been the Granby before that, and the Granby Hall before it was converted into a cinema in 1912.

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    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    A wooden audience watching a wooden cast.

    Very descriptive. It could also go for any big brother fans out there


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    Newbie Dave H's Avatar
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    It's interesting that you call the Granby by that name.
    Officially it had been the Prince's since 1932, but it had been the Granby before that, and the Granby Hall before it was converted into a cinema in 1912.[/QUOTE]

    I never thought about it - I think I just called it what others did. I suppose it shows the persistence of group labels. (Another example would be the Egerton Street 'Grapes' being known as 'Peter Kavanagh's' until it was called 'Peter Kavanagh's' and was known as 'The Grapes'.)

    The Granby cinema was awful. The stuffing was out of a lot of the seats. You couldn't hear the picture for the crowd noises. There were also columns supporting the balcony and if you got stuck in a seat behind them you could see nothing.

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    Senior Member knowhowe's Avatar
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    Does anyone have any pictures of the Rialto in its heyday? I've never seen any. I only remember it as Swainbank's (where we bought odd bits of furniture when we were starting out) - and as the gutted wreck, of course.

    Don't know if it's true, but there was a tale at the time that they wouldn't serve black people at Swainbank's, hence it being targeted.

    The idea of that sad place once being filled by elegantly-dressed people dancing to a real orchestra fills me with wonder...
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    So glad you have happy memories of the Rialto my father was Hal Graham (he was the band leader at the Rialto and died in 1990 aged 81). Me and my two brothers spent many happy hours at the Rialto at the cinema and as a special treat (when I was 11) we were allowed to stay up late and be at the ballroom to watch my dad at work with his band, Faith Brown was the singer and she married my Dad's bass player Len Wadey.

    My Father was heartbroken when they shut down the ballroom it was his life and to see the Rialto go up in flames was so upsetting for us all, it was such a wonderful place and to me as a child a magical place that I will never forget.

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    Smurf Member scouse smurf's Avatar
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    Nice first post, Gina.

    Welcome to Yo

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    I second that, Smurf.
    Welcome to Yo, Gina
    Started the Old Swan Website:

    http://oldswan.piczo.com/?cr=5

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    Senior Member John Doh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jasper View Post
    I no longer live in Liverpool.

    All those people with their meaningless battle scars from a few days racial violence fail to impress me.

    The loss of the Rialto as a dance venue represents the destruction of a culture and a way or life that gave a kind of dignity and glamour to those of us who knew it and went there.
    I guess that you left Liverpool long before the riots. The Rialto you're speaking of, along with its 'dignity and glamour' were long gone by the time of the riots. Swainbanks and his second-hand furniture shop were allegedly targeted because he made his living by assisting the destruction of the culture by stripping any remaining artefacts and selling them to the Americans at vastly inflated prices.

    More importantly, the Toxteth riots were not in any normal sense an example of racial violence. They were rather the spontaneous uprising of the community, black AND white united against oppressive policing. The only racial element came from the police who routinely used racist language and behaviour in the area.

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    Senior Member johnny blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Doh View Post
    I guess that you left Liverpool long before the riots. The Rialto you're speaking of, along with its 'dignity and glamour' were long gone by the time of the riots. Swainbanks and his second-hand furniture shop were allegedly targeted because he made his living by assisting the destruction of the culture by stripping any remaining artefacts and selling them to the Americans at vastly inflated prices.

    More importantly, the Toxteth riots were not in any normal sense an example of racial violence. They were rather the spontaneous uprising of the community, black AND white united against oppressive policing. The only racial element came from the police who routinely used racist language and behaviour in the area.
    So on that night in June 1981, what was the reason for the evacuation of the Geriatric wards of Princes Park hospital on Upper Parliament Street,? The setting fire to the 'Raquets Club' the looting and torching of shops on Lodge lane. It was down to pure criminality, nothing to do with someone exporting furniture to America or racist language.

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    George
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    Does anyone have any pictures of the Rialto in its heyday? I've never seen any
    These...
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    As a dark cloud of smoke and the smell of burning drifted over the skyline and so us teenagers rushed up to see what was going on. This song was eerily No.1 on that Sunday's hit parade.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ2oXzrnti4


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    Senior Member naked lilac's Avatar
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    Cool wheels in that video....You sure could get a lot of people in a car then... ghost town or no ghost town... Good pics.. Ta for sharing the insides of the Rialto..

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    Senior Member John Doh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny blue View Post
    So on that night in June 1981, what was the reason for the evacuation of the Geriatric wards of Princes Park hospital on Upper Parliament Street,? The setting fire to the 'Raquets Club' the looting and torching of shops on Lodge lane. It was down to pure criminality, nothing to do with someone exporting furniture to America or racist language.
    Desperate people do desperate things! I was not trying to justify the violence but was objecting to your categorisation of the riots as racial violence, your use of the word meaningless and the implication that the riots caused the decline of the area and not the reverse.

    I know there are people outside the area who still think of Toxteth as a place where race riots took place, but don't expect to see such statements repeated here; they were triggered by the repeated police harrassment of black youths, but the whole community rose up to defend them.

    Princes Park Hospital was evacuated with the assistance of rioters, who called a halt in the proceedings to allow ambulances access to the patients, some actually helping them personally. This was attested to the following day by letters to the press from relatives, thanking them for this help.

    The Racquet Club, on the other hand, was a deliberate target; it was widely regarded, rightly or wrongly, as an ostentatious bastion of upper class privilege, where judges would drink together after 'sending down' a member of the deprived community on their very doorstep. Ironically, one judge - a very wise judge in my opinion - was able to take a wider perspective: I suggest you read The Scarman Report on the riots, which has no doubt that social deprivation and poor relations between the police and the local community were a major cause.

    Of course there were innocent victims of the looting and destruction and there were those who took advantage of the absence of law and order - my own car was destroyed at the time - but I don't believe this entitles us to dismiss the riots as meaningless or 'down to pure criminality'

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    Senior Member johnny blue's Avatar
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    What a wonderful public spirited attitude the rioters had on that night by helping the elderley and infirm from there sick beds.............NOT

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    Senior Member John Doh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny blue View Post
    What a wonderful public spirited attitude the rioters had on that night by helping the elderley and infirm from there sick beds.............NOT
    What are you saying? - That you don't believe it happened? Or that you don't want to accept that some rioters could still behave like human beings even when caught up in such events - because it doesn't fit the false image you have of them? I don't suppose many of them even knew the hospital was there until the flames from the adjacent Racquet Club - which they were very much aware of - began to be a threat to the patients.

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    George
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    What are you saying?
    To make a stand against police harrasment you don't need riots,these riots were caused by outsiders who came into the area with intent to cause what we have seen in the toxteth riots,but black youths in the area didn't give a monkeys cuss about the how it came about because they seen it as a chance to loot and cause destruction.

    Why didn't they lobby parliment in the form a march on downing street about police harrasment in Toxteth?

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    Senior Member John Doh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    To make a stand against police harrasment you don't need riots,these riots were caused by outsiders who came into the area with intent to cause what we have seen in the toxteth riots,but black youths in the area didn't give a monkeys cuss about the how it came about because they seen it as a chance to loot and cause destruction.

    Why didn't they lobby parliment in the form a march on downing street about police harrasment in Toxteth?
    Do you have any evidence for this? I've not seen any.

    As for marches, I don't think many people of any colour still believe they achieve much, unless they can call on very large numbers, which would have been unlikely in this case.

    Mrs. Simey, as Chairman of the Police Authority and very articulate woman, did her best to curb the racist behaviour of the force, but was up against it when faced with Kenneth Oxford, the Chief Constable, making statements to the media endorsing the actions of his force that would now be seen as racist in themselves.

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    Senior Member danensis's Avatar
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    I's forgotten about Ken Oxford. I remember an interview with him on Radio Merseyside, when someone had been beaten up by theTask Force (Liverpool's equivalent to the SPG in London). He said (and I'm afraid I have to parahrase, as I don't remember the exact words, that anyone on the streets after midnight was up to no good, and if they got beaten up by the police that was their own fault.

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    Senior Member John Doh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by taffy View Post
    Here's a photo of the old Rialto before it was torched in the 1981 riots

    http://toxteth.net/places/liverpool/...t%20street.htm
    I'm getting "Page cannot be found" on my computer. Can anyone else see it?

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