The Day Cliff Richard Came to Town

by Roger Ellis

Castleford’s boast is that Buffalo Bill, with his Wild West Circus, came to town in 1904; a story passed down from grandparents to grandchildren, many of whom in the 1960’s revelled in various TV western series. Well, on January 20th 1959, Cliff Richard and The Drifters, later to be re-named The Shadows, appeared on stage at the Crescent Cinema. From that moment life for Pontefract’s blossoming teenagers would not be the same again. Unfortunately, legend has it that Cliff vowed he would never appear in the town again because, during a press photo shoot in the Valley Gardens, he was mobbed and chased by screaming fans, mainly teenage girls, eager for his autograph or a quick cuddle.

The period was, as we know, a time of great musical revival and composition, one driven by a teenage love of popular rock ’n’ roll music. During those heady days of the late 1950’s and early 60’s, the Crescent stage was graced with stars of the time, many of whom remain household names to this day. Groups like The John Barry Seven (John Barry being York’s famous son who was to become the composer of many big Hollywood film scores such as the James Bond theme, Dances with Wolves, Born Free Out of Africa to name but a few), Marty Wilde and the red haired Wee Willy Harris, The Bachelors and a young unknown comedian called Jimmy Tarbuck.   

Adding fuel to all of this hysteria was the record stand in the Pontefract Market Hall where, providing one had some money to spare, the latest hits could be bought for 5/- or, for those with instrumental skills, the guitar and piano sheet music score for 2/-. Mrs. Jay’s small family run booth, despite its size, carried almost every record and LP request available and if not, it could easily be ordered. This popular gathering place on Saturday afternoon was the magnet for the town’s vibrant youth fraternity. Here the sound of the latest top ten could be heard reverberating around the Market Hall, the surrounding area itself impassable due to the volume of those wanting to listen. There would be an almost continuous call to play again the number one record of that week. And if money was short it could be reserved for the following week, with no deposit. 

Such was the town life in Pontefract.

This article was featured in Issue 3 – April 2019.

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