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Friars website introductions


Robin Pike

Friars founding Father

A look at Friars Phase Two

Phase 1 and Phase 2 were like chalk and cheese.  Phase 1 could be seen as hippy-dippy, with tie dyed T shirts, hair and ‘leapers corner.’ Unfortunately Phase 2 was altogether more like real life. The Borough Assembly Hall was otherwise known as ‘The Grosvenor’ and had been used as a venue by a succession of promoters in particular Eddie Friday. I read somewhere that it was infamous during the building of the M1 motorway as a good place for fighting on a Saturday night.  Having said that, Jimi Hendrix played there before we came on the scene. 

I hated the Assembly Hall.  You entered by an alleyway leading off the Market Square, next to The Green Man, went up some steps and then took on the bouncers on the door.  I was one of these. Inside, the Hall was dark and cavernous with a rear raised area and steps leading down to the dance floor. The acoustics of the place were unbelievably bad since the building had no surfaces that could absorb sound.  With a band playing on stage the best sound was to be had outside by the clock tower. The Bar was at the left hand side of the stage.  This was very small and narrow making it virtually impossible to get a drink.  The consequence of that was that most of the audience had to go out to get a drink……………and that meant ‘passouts.’ 

If I could leave one piece of advice to a future generation it would be ‘never give passouts in your Club.’  The admission prices were very reasonable, even by 70s standards as can be seen on this web-site.  For many people however it was an irresistible challenge that they should get in without paying.  This generally meant forging the passout. For a long time we used a rubber stamp applied to the wrist of the departing patron.  This could be used as a ‘transfer’ on to your mate’s wrist often many times over.  I used to stand on the door from 9pm on a Saturday night with some support from a second security person.  And then there was Timmy Collins!  Timmy was a boxer or, in fact, a prize fighter who had fought for money in Fairs around the country.  He looked the part!  On several occasions he saved me from a serious kicking or worse.  Remember that Aylesbury had a bad reputation for drugs and violence.  One young man who had been ‘glassed’ in The Crown died after leaving a trail of blood in the High Street.   

But there was another side to the coin.  David (Stopps) had a particular liking for Christmas during the 70s.  This led to our pantomimes!  Someone decided that we should enact Mother Goose in between Bands at the Show before Christmas.  So it was that I negotiated the hire of a professional goose costume from a supplier in London and Nicky Mendey wrote a little script.  We rehearsed in the Grammar School Hall on a Friday evening to much hilarity………………yes there was a pantomime horse!. You couldn’t make it up.  

 There were some great bands as well.  Legends like Al Kooper and Roy Buchanan.  Stars like Bowie, Lou Reed, Ronnie Lane, Queen,  and many more as can be seen from the web-site. The second Bowie gig sticks in the memory as it marked the beginning of what was later to become a Friars Dressing Room trade mark. I decided that we should create a Gala night in true theatrical tradition by bringing in flowers!  Nicky Mendey and I went up to Covent Garden flower market on the Friday night and bought a lot of flowers.  Then we went to the all-night Lou Reed gig at the Scala in Kings Cross.  That is another story all together!  When we got back to Aylesbury, I improvised an arrangement with up-turned benches filled with soil to hold the said floral decoration.  We then proceeded to ‘fly’ these from a lighting bar so that David performed under a mid air floral decoration.  Original or what!  In Phase 3 we introduced Dressing Room flowers as part of the Rider for all major artistes. 

Eventually, the Assembly Hall with its long history as a theatre and concert venue was knocked down so that a shopping centre could be built.  Strange how history is repeating itself!

Robin Pike

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