Who is Mr X
Until it closed in 1996 Queens Social Club was central to the lives of families living in Abbeywood. It was announced last week that after 23 years of decay and vandalism it will re-open in 2019. Since the announcement there has been much speculation on social media as to who is behind the re-opening. Known only as Mr X, the man behind the project agreed to speak with us.
Mr X. Why the cloak of mystery about your identity?
“I thought I’d do a bit of a Banksy. His work is all about his art and not about him. The Queens is all about the community. I’m just a catalyst. Ultimately it’s the people who will make this work. The focus is on them and their community. It’s about being social, pulling together and taking responsibility. If I can help make that happen then it’s a start”
Why the Queens?
“I grew up in this neighbourhood. The closing of public amenities, shops, pubs, social clubs, community centres and even the library have changed this place. Social media is no substitute for people getting together. The Queens can be a lot of things to a lot of people. We need a place where families can go out and be together on a Saturday night. Have fun with their neighbours and people they work with. That’s what the Queens used to be”
“Socially and politically there are echoes of the 70’s. That’s when I first went to the Queens with my family and school mates”
What was special about the Queens back then?
“Every Saturday night the Queens was a family night. As a kid I looked forward to it. So did everyone. The grown ups could mix, chat and have a beer or a Babycham while the children could join in with the entertainment. Who doesn’t like a good raffle? The bingo was so noisy it was hard to even hear someone shout ‘house’! Fun and laughter filled that club. Some nights there was a quiz or a live band. We had a disco and the dance floor was even chalked as they did for ballroom dancing. Chicken-in-the-basket could be ordered from the bar and there were sweets and pop for the children. Most of all, it was affordable. Local businesses would donate prizes. The drinks were sold cheaper than in pubs. For one night a week, children were allowed into a grown up world. A rite of passage. They got to play with other children and chat to their parents friends. We weren’t sat in front of the telly watching Britains Got Talent. People made plans together and some even went on holiday together. Coach trips for family days out, five-a-side football and even cookery classes were all organised because everyone had a place they could call their own. The Queens was just one of many social clubs around the city. You could go into any neighbourhood back then and see the same. Some of my mates went to the British Legion on Downton Road and that even had a skittle alley!”
But times have changed. Isn’t this all just nostalgia?
“They have and no! This is about opportunity. If we don’t sow seeds nothing will grow?”
May I just ask about your…
“Sorry, but no… I think I’ve said all I want to say. Have a chat with some of the folk who live in Abbeywood. Maybe we can speak again when the club is due to open”
Every evening at eight Angus would stroll down the road to the social club. He’d already had a wash after work and had enjoyed his dinner cooked by his lovely wife Mary. He pushed open the door to the club and entered into the room rich with cheerful chatter. “Hello there Angus how’s yerself this fine evening?”. “Couldn’t be better thanks Dougie, I’ll have a pint and a dram please”. He took his two glasses over to the table by the window and sat down contemplating the colourful tapestry of the local regulars. He knew them all by name; he’d been coming here every night for over thirty years.
“How’s it going Angus? Everything ok at work? I’ve been hearing some disturbing rumours from the factory”. “It’s not looking good Tommy, there’s talk of them losing a lot of money, maybe having to lay some folk off, maybe having to shut the whole place down”. “But nothing definite at the moment?”. “Not at the moment, no. Anything could happen, though, it’s all up in the air. What about you Tommy? How’s Linda?”. “She’s much the same, you know Angus, only she keeps trying to get out of the house after dinner. I’ve had to lock her in just now so I could come down here for a pint. It’s a nightmare really. Apparently it’s quite common; they call it ‘sundowning’ because every night at dusk they want to go walkabout”. “That’s just terrible, Tommy. Isn’t there anything they can do?”. “No, there’s no cure, and it’s only going to get worse before the end”.
Every evening at eight, after Angus had gone to the club, Mary did the washing up. She stared out of the kitchen window wondering… wondering… Was she happy with this life? Her life? She really didn’t know as she wiped the plates with a tea towel. Having finished the dishes, she sat back down at the table, and waited for Angus to come home. He would tell her the news of all the people she had never met, even though she felt that she did know them, only not by sight. She sighed. Would she like to go to the club? The question had never crossed her mind. Until now.
Memories of Queens Social Club
Last week we printed a brief interview with a man known as Mr X, the man behind the refurbishment and re-opening of Queens Social Club. We asked our readers if they had any memories from the Queens. We had a great number responses and will be printing some of them over the coming weeks.
Today we hear from Vince Porter who played with, in his words, the “almost famous” Vince Porter and The Vipers.
What was the Queens to you?
Back through the 70’s and 80’s, after work I went to the Queens a couple of times a week. I knew I could catch up with my mates. We didn’t talk about unwinding or relaxing back then but sure enough that’s what we were doing. It was dressed up with a lot of back slapping, drinking beer and smoking cheap fags. Mind you, we didn’t drink to get drunk. It was a few pints before heading home to the wife and kids. We had no mobile phones and some of us didn’t even have house phones. I suppose you could say our social media of choice was the Queens.
We had a lot of good times and a lot of laughs but the Queens was about more than that. We all had good jobs and trades. Plumbers, electricians, gardeners, mechanics and carpenters. Between us we could have built a bloody house. We didn’t of course, but we’d give each other tips or agree to do something on the cheap for a mate or muck in if one of us needed a hand. If we couldn’t do it between us we knew someone who could. Everyone knew everyone and we all pulled together. It’s one of the things I missed most when the Queens closed. Overnight we lost all of that. It was never the same after. I kept in touch with my best mates but keeping up with everyone was impossible. I think we all thought it would open again but no one took the initiative to do anything about it.
Of course the Queens was also on the band circuit of local pubs and clubs so we would play there four or five times a year. Usually on Saturday nights. We made a good living out of playing the circuit. Maybe that’s why we never made the big time. We all had a ‘Vipers tattoo and we used to joke that we could never be in another band! Lack of ambition or maybe we thought we had already made it, who knows? All of us had day jobs and the money from the band paid for the van, good holidays, luxuries and of course the Jag’. I didn’t drive the Jag’ to look cool. I was playing at living the rock star. Out of all the clubs and pubs where we gigged the band liked playing at the Queens the most. It had a good stage and lights but mainly because we could play for our families and make them proud. My kids loved seeing me up on stage even when I did my best to embarrass them. There was one song, I’ll not say which one, but when I sang it, the wife knew it was for her. I’d always give her a wink at the end.
For more information about Alzheimer’s and support available in the UK visit the Alzheimer’s Society website HERE