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Celebrating the Granada, which twice hosted The Beatles

Posted onPosted on 15th Feb

2023 marks 50 years since the Granada Mansfield closed its doors for the final time.

To mark the milestone a two-month long exhibition is to be held at Mansfield Museum, from 1st April.

There will also be a tribute concert night at the Forest Town Arena on 26th March.

It will feature information, photographs, memorabilia, audio recordings, film, and a specially-commissioned model of what was a major entertainment hub in the town for more than 40 years.

The much-loved Granada, on West Gate, was originally a cinema and later also became a music venue in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Top of the charts of the famous music names to have appeared at the Granada were The Beatles — but other famous names and stars of the future included greats like Adam Faith, Cliff Richard, Joe Brown, Dusty Springfield, Billy Fury, Little Eva, Sandy Shaw, Gene Vincent, Billy J Kramer, Herman’s Hermits, The Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies, Little Richard, The Ronettes, and The Rolling Stones.

These memories of The Granada — which was on the site of today’s Primark store — are being kept alive by Mansfield man Ian ‘Watko’ Watkins.

In 2019 he launched and collated material for a tribute website,, which features interviews with former staff and visitors; rare old film; photographs; and much more — all of which bring back memories for people who went to the Granada to watch films and concerts.

Now he is seeing his dream of bringing all his memorabilia and memories together in an exhibition at the museum.

Ian, programme controller at radio station Mansfield 103.2, said: “I have a keen interest in local history — social history.

“I have long been fascinated by stories of the Granada and for the last few years I have been collecting memories and memorabilia relating to the cinema.

“I suppose it started for me with my dad telling me about him going to see The Beatles at the Granada.

“Initially, perhaps I didn’t believe him and the stories about bands like The Rolling Stones also appearing in Mansfield.

“He was there back in 1963 watching The Beatles, but gradually I began to realise it was all true. Probably the internet suddenly made everything easier to verify, read up about, and realise it did happen.

“I have always been a fan of The Beatles music and it all came to life for me.

“I did history at university and am particularly interested in social history. With working at the radio station, and the music link, it inspired me to keep alive the memories of the Granada and all those people who worked and visited there.

“I would walk down West Gate and look up at Primark, thinking of what an iconic building used to be there.

“It made me want to reach out to all the people who used to work there, who used to go there for a night out, and to record those memories for future generations before they are lost.

“I am sure that many are shocked to find so many stars, like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, played in Mansfield.

“And it’s not just about the music. It is about the Granada as a cinema, with a nod to all the other cinemas there were in Mansfield at that time too — something like five in two-miles.

“It has now been gone longer than it existed, but for many local people when you mention its name it still brings back happy memories.”

The exhibition will run during April and May and among the exhibits is a miniature model of the Granada, based on a photo taken in September 1964.

In April 2020 Ian commissioned Lee Robinson, of LNR Models, to create the model of the frontage of the Granada.

Ian’s passion for the Granada has also seen him collect many more items. Some he has bought while others have been donated.

Visitors to the museum will be able to view photographs that have not been seen for a long time and which Ian had to get special permission to include in the exhibition.

There will also be an original architects drawing of the building, side on, from the 1920s before it was built, which Ian explained gives an idea of the scale of the project to create what was then The Plaza.

The art deco building was designed by Nottingham’s Alfred John Thraves.

Usherette torches, ice cream trays, and cinema seats from the period as well as memorabilia from Granada shows such as tickets are among other items planned for the exhibition.

Visitors will be able to listen to some of Ian’s interviews with former staff members, recounting their time and memories of working there — as well as watching old film of the Granada.

Thanks to Projected Picture Trust, he is also hoping to have an old projector that would interest local former projectionists able to see one up close again after many years.

Among them will, hopefully, be Malcolm Appleby and Fred Shelton, two former Granada projectionists, who Ian thanked for their amazing help.

“Their passion for their time working in the industry has been inspirational,” he added. “Without their support and encouragement none of this would have happened.

“Celluloid ran through their veins,”

Talking about the cinema’s popularity in its heyday Ian said: “It was the romance of the age I suppose. People had their first dates there, made lifelong friendships and it is evocative nostalgia — and I think that continues to this day.

“I know during the pandemic interest in cinema dropped and today there are so many streaming services, but for many people there is nothing quite like going to the cinema and watching a film on the big screen.

“It is 50 years since the Granada closed and it just feels like the right time to do this.”


Pipes from surviving Wurlitzer will be on display

Ian’s idea for an exhibition to showcase memories of the Granada began around 2018 and since then the News Journal has featured several articles on his project.

He started to collate audio interviews with projectionists, usherettes, organists, people who worked in the sweet shop and restaurant, as well as film and music fans who frequently visited.

Then the pandemic struck, so Ian diverted his attention to creating — to display memorabilia, such as this flyer for a Gene Vincent concert at the Granada, which was donated by cinemagoer Fred Newton, of Kirkby, who also shared his memories with Ian for the project.

But now, thanks to Jodie Henshaw, Mansfield Museum curator, the exhibition is going to happen. Ian added: I would like to say a massive thanks to Jodie, who has been behind the project from the beginning and been so supportive.

He also particularly thanked Alan Wilson, the last Granada organist, for his very helpful input to the project. Alan played the famous Wurlitzer at the venue and will be taking pipes from the organ to the exhibition — as well as his memories of The Mansfield Granadiers Saturday morning children’s club.

The impressive white with gold leaf trim Wurlitzer (Opus 2192) organ stood in front of the stage area and was installed at the cinema in 1936. It is pretty much the only thing to survive when the Granada was demolished in 1973.

The organ was still used during the pop concert era, unlike many others on the Granada circuit that remained dormant for much of the late 1950s and 1960s, and is still in working order today. It is now part of the Scarborough Fair Collection.

Many people remember the organ being played in front of packed houses of children during Saturday morning film showings, known as the Saturday Rush or the Tanner Rush, because it a cost sixpence to get in.

The youngsters would sing along to the organ, becoming part of The Mansfield Granadiers, who even had their own song. The morning’s entertainment also included sing-alongs to popular records of the day, supplied by the well-known Syd Booth’s record shop. competitions, cartoons, the ‘serial’ short film that would run over a number of weeks, and children’s movies.

Alan is hoping to find a recording of him playing for the Granadiers to feature in the exhibition.

Ian added: “I am always looking for memorabilia, missing bits of the jigsaw, to keep preserving the memories, I am still searching for items, such as Granada usherette uniforms.

“I would also alway like to hear of people’s memories from that time. And if they would rather not speak to me, we are hoping to add a visitors’ book at the exhibition where people can write down their own thoughts.”

If you’d like to be interviewed or can help with the Granada website and exhibition, call Mansfield 103.2 on 01623 666020 or email [email protected]