The Empress Cinema, the Empress Club, the Poco a Poco – Stockport
(Many thanks to Stephen Shaw for putting together this brilliant article http://shawweb.myzen.co.uk/stephen/poco.htm)
I can profess no specialist knowledge of the Poco a Poco in Stockport, but I did live behind it for 8 years and saw it demolished after I had been to a concert there. However due to the large number of visitors to this web site looking for information, I have assembled the following.
Brief History: Site of Ash Farmhouse.
Location: Manchester Road and Denby Lane junction in Heaton Chapel.
Name changes: Empress Cinema opened 6th May 1939; then (9/12/59) Empress Club to (December 1968) Poco a Poco to (1983) Chesters to (December 1987) Hinds Head Pub.
A cabaret act (Frisky And Mannish) appeared around 2009 with a song The ballad of Eileen Johnson, housewife, 49 (references to Dexy's Midnight Runners, and Housewife, 49, Nella Last) which mentions the Poco a Poco becoming Sparkle Glitter Club, another couple of references there- but that is fiction, it didn't happen!
The building opened as the Empress Cinema, seating 1400, promoted by the grandson of an owner of Ash Farm (Harry Hitchen) who was also a councillor. This was the last cinema to be built in Stockport for some decades. After opening with The Scarlet Pimpernel, the program continued with Goldwyn Follies. There was no cinema organ. In 1956 the Empress Cinema merged with Heaton Moor Savoy but finally closed in 1959, the ballroom however remaining open.
Appearing at the Poco a Poco building:
6th May 1939- Empress Cinema opened, showing The Scarlet Pimpernel.
1946 films at the Empress: Oct 12 The Blue Dhalia; Oct 13 Western Union; Oct 14 The Stork Club
18th April 1959- Empress Cinema closed, last film Rock a bye baby (Jerry Lewis film).
9/12/1959- Empress Cabaret Club opened using part of the old cinema, run by Manchester City footballer, Keith Marsden. Other parts of building used for Flamingo Coffee Jive Club.
1961- Empress Bingo club used the none-cabaret portion of the building.
4/7/1964- Blue Diamonds:- Bob Harrison vocals; Chris Barry lead; Kevin Mottershead rhythm; Terry Liversidge Bass.
11/10/1964- Granville Taylor (magician, later known as Faust the Magician)
14/11/1964- The Swinging Hangmen.
1967- FIRE closes the site for a while.
December 1968- Poco a Poco Club and casino opens in the building.
1969- tv show- Frankie Howerd at the Poco a Poco (shown 7th May 1969).
August 1969- Bill Haley and his Comets were working very hard touring the clubs, often two clubs per day. After a stint at the Broadway in Failsworth they came to the Poco from 3rd to 9th of August 1969, appearing at the same time at the Talk of the North Eccles. Then they moved on to Bolton Casino...
1969-1971: Toby Twirl (Barrie Sewell (keyboard), Nick Thorburn (guitar), Stuart Somerville (bass), Dave 'Holly' Holland (vocals) and John Reed (drums)
1969-1976- resident band The Pressmen, the line-up changed a lot. Started with Graham Lee and Tommy Unthank.
About 1969- Karl Denver (hit record Wimoweh, he is buried in Stockport Cemetary) came to the Poco.
27/4/1970- David Bowie without a backing band, playing acoustic guitar- a band (aptly called Hype!) had been booked but the arrangements with the band were always flexible. (It has been reported that the drummer (Mick 'Woody' Woodmansey) had hurt his finger preventing Hype from appearing.) David was the second act following Purple Gang. After David, were Barclay James Harvest. After we left another group High Tide also played (it went on quite late). It has also been reported that David slept at Stockport Railway Station as he missed the train on the way back home.
11/4/1977- Fivepenny Piece (John Meeks (guitar, vocals);Lynda Meeks (vocals) - John's sister; Eddie Crotty (guitar, vocals); George Radcliffe (bass, vocals); Colin Radcliffe (guitar, vocals) - George's brother) (they performed Eee by gum and others) with Mike Harding (televised on BBC2)
30/10/1977- Lyn Paul.
In 1978 the BBC recorded six shows with the 5p Piece and Mike Harding, transmitted on Friday nights at 9pm (BBC2). Then an extra "Christmas Special" broadcast on 23rd December 1978.
11/5/1979- Fivepenny Piece, see 11/4/77, outside broadcast concert. Guest was Blaster Bates.
There was a boxing match held "in Stockport" on 19th November 1979 but the venue is not recorded-- however if it was the first of three (the other two WERE at the Poco) the bouts were: Prince Rodney v Horace McKenzie won by Rodney on points; Wayne Barker v Chris Glover won by Barker on points; Lance Williams v Barry Price, won by Williams on points; Chris Coady v Paul Jones won by Coady by KO. Dai Davies v Eddite Copeland won by Copeland by KO. [Probably Copelands first professional bout; (he had earlier won 1979 Light Welterweight ABA - and much later his daughter Stacey went on to do the same).
18/2/1980 - boxing match between Eddie Burke and Eddie Smith, won by Burke, on points.
18/2/1980 - boxing match between Lance Williams and Ceri Collins, won by Collins, on points.
18/2/1980 - boxing match between Rocky Burton and Nigel Savory, won by Burton, on points.
18/2/1980- boxing match between Peter Bassey and Joe Jackson, won by Bassy, on points.
18/2/1980- boxing match between Eddie Copeland and Tommy Wright, won by Copeland, on points.
29/4/1980- boxing match between Peter Bassey and Leo Mulhearn, won by Mulhearn, on points.
29/4/1980- boxing match between Eddie Copeland and Jeff Pritchard, won by Copeland, TKO.
29/4/1980- boxing match between Lance Williams and George McGurk, won by Williams on points.
29/4/1980- boxing match between Billy Ahearne and Robert Armstrong, won by Ahearne (KO)
29/4/1980- boxing match between Eddie Smith and Dave Owens, won by Owens (KO)
Boxing took place at this venue only on two (or three) dates as far as boxing records show.
Early 1980's- Mickey Dee, DJ - "Vince Miller asked if I could cover the resident dj holiday. I took the chance and first night played the birdie song and taught everybody the dance. The management Joe Lamb and Mike Pickard loved it so much I got the job.
I brought in Vince's son Dave Walsh to do the small room at the front, but when it became Chesters they decided on a Piccadilly Radio dj. I served my apprenticeship at the Poco and still remember Vince fondly and we remain good friends. I carried on in entertainment and now work as a comedian/compere."
(Mickey is Michael Simmons, a Stockport local who went to Peel Moat School (now demolished) and then went on to more fame in Blackpool (North Pier) and elsewhere as Joey Blower) (2013 email from Michael)
(A local magazine which takes copy from this website quite often, without asking and without credit! and uses copyright images from elsewhere without consent, has added to my writing a line conflating Michael Simmons with a Michael Atkinson, in utter error. For the record, Joey Blower = Michael Simmons!).
02/04/1982- The Gents. (Martin John Burton; Steve Chambers; Steve Kendell; Glyn Davies)
1983 - reopens as Chesters.
1983-1985: Tony Just, DJ/Compere.
MAY 1987- FIRE closes the building (again).
1987- Poco a Poco building demolished.
December 1987- Hinds Head opened as a Whitbread pub, built on the site with the new building further from Manchester road than the old one.
August 2007- the pub becomes a family owned and run free house with real ale.
(Many thanks to Stephen Shaw for putting together this brilliant article http://shawweb.myzen.co.uk/stephen/poco.htm