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Past Times

Lost photos capture the stars at Flicks nightclub in Brechin

Pictures from the glory days of Flicks nightclub in Brechin have been found gathering dust. reports.
Graeme Strachan
Leslie Grantham at Flicks.
EastEnders legend Leslie Grantham at Flicks. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

A rummage through some cardboard boxes has unearthed a treasure trove of photos from the glory days of Flicks nightclub in Brechin.

Some have never been seen before.

Flicks was famed for its laser light show and drew clubbers from across the UK with the promise of seeing that generation’s biggest singers, soap stars and personalities.

For several years, Perth freelance photographer Lawrence McNamara documented the nightclub which became a mecca for the Stock, Aitken and Waterman generation.

Flicks was the hottest nightspot in the UK and his photos regularly appeared in the Evening Telegraph alongside stories written by my former colleague James Masson.

Amidst Lawrence’s array of hidden away snaps gathering dust were shots of Leslie Grantham from EastEnders as well as pop stars such as Bananarama and Sinitta.

Bananarama at Flicks in the 1980s.
Bananarama were among the big stars of the 1980s to grace Flicks. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

Lawrence said: “I had been used to taking pics of news and sports events in Perth and snapping the occasional big name who came to town.

“However, the acts that came to Flicks were pretty big and they appeared on a frequent basis like Jason Donovan, Rick Astley and Gloria Gaynor.

“I still have a lot of the hard copy pictures.

“These were moments to treasure.”

Sinitta.
Sinitta shot to fame with hits like So Macho. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

Flicks had a strong business relationship with Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman and hosted a number of the production trio’s chart-toppers in the 1980s.

Every performer won new fans and sold more records on the back of a Flicks visit and Brechin businesses made a small fortune.

James was right at the heart of the Flicks action for the Evening Telegraph.

Rick Astley at Flicks.
Rick Astley singing to fans at Flicks in 1987. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

He said: “As a journalist always on the look out for stories I had heard Flicks was some place where a lot was happening.

“I ventured up one Thursday midweek night in bad weather and was blown away by the place.

“The light show, in particular, was fantastic.

“Jamie Hawke was the guy who operated it and the man was an electronic genius.

“I whisked freelance photographer Lawrence McNamara up to the venue and we were soon on a whirlwind musical journey with stars such as Village People, Bananarama and Jason Donovan as well as soap actors including Nick Berry and Leslie Grantham from EastEnders and models Linda Lusardi, Samantha Fox and Kathy Lloyd.”

Linda Lusardi meets her fans at Flicks in the 1980s.
Linda Lusardi meets her fans at Flicks in the 1980s. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

It started in 1985 when Stuart Aikenhead and fellow Brechin men Mike Swilinski and Pete Barr turned the old King’s cinema into a nightclub fit to rival anything in the land.

It was like stepping in to a wonderland, complete with laser lights and cocktails.

With Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth all within an hour’s travelling time and the Edzell US Naval base on the doorstep, there was a huge customer base.

DJ Peter Powell signs autographs for fans at Flicks in Brechin.
DJ Peter Powell signs autographs for fans at Flicks. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

Transport to and from the nightclub was not a problem.

Bain’s Coaches from Oldmeldrum operated a popular £2 return service that covered the whole of the north-east of Scotland.

Many of the nightclub’s customers travelled every weekend to Flicks.

People even came from as far away as Newcastle.

The 1980s biggest stars appeared at Flicks in Brechin

“The 1980s was a great decade for pop music,” said James.

“Millions of records were being sold in Britain, there were girl groups, soul stars and pop and rock groups aplenty.

“At the centre of it all was Brechin.

“A little Angus town of some 7,000 inhabitants was playing such a big role on the British music scene that the legendary Stock, Aitken and Waterman hits factory moved lock, stock and barrel to the city’s Flicks nightclub for its Christmas party one year.

Stuntman Eddie Kidd enjoys champagne with promoter Tony Cochrane.
Stuntman Eddie Kidd enjoys champagne with promoter Tony Cochrane. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

“One performer who made several appearances was legendary DJ Steve Wright.

“Steve would finish his Radio 1 show at 4pm on Fridays, rush over to Heathrow Airport and get a flight to Edinburgh.

“From there, Flicks would whisk him up to Brechin by road and he would perform at the club.

“Steve is a great guy, a true entertainer.

“He told me he started his DJ career several years previously in Pitlochry of all places, working on a small radio station.

“It was also popular with Bruno Brookes, Simon Bates and Peter Powell.

DJ Simon Bates at Flicks in Brechin.
DJ Simon Bates at Flicks. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

“Nick Berry was another favourite.

“He was playing Wicksy in EastEnders before going on to find more fame in Heartbeat.

“He, too, was a great guy and I met him, subsequently, in London.

“Nick loved his Flicks visits and, again, Flicks loved him.

“Leslie Grantham, EastEnders’ Dirty Den, was also a big attraction at Flicks.”

He was even seen pulling pints there!

The music stopped in 2005

Michaela Strachan and Pete Waterman were the hosts when the cult ITV late-night clubbing show The Hitman and Her was filmed live from its dancefloor four times.

Flicks was sold to Montrose businessman Colin Bruce in 1992 for £300,000, who introduced new attractions including an under-18s disco.

It changed hands again a few times before closing in 1996 following a fire.

But no party lasts forever and by the early noughties the club had fallen on hard times in the face of wider choice in Dundee and Aberdeen.

Flicks relaunched as Arena in 2001 with both floors rebuilt, and one of the best sound systems and lighting rigs in Scotland but struggled to attract clientele despite the investment and was eventually bought by Blue Beat Entertainment in 2004.

The music stopped and the house lights flashed on for the final time in 2005.

Clive Jackson of Doctor and the Medics performing at Flicks in Brechin.
Clive Jackson of Doctor and the Medics performing at the legendary venue. Image: Lawrence McNamara.

Flicks has languished on the Buildings at Risk Register ever since.

It sits derelict on the High Street.

James concluded: “When the history of Scottish popular music comes to be written, the name of Flicks will be etched in its memoirs.

“These were great days and I can sum it up with this comment.

“I was chatting to a guy in the Flicks foyer and he was looking at Lawrence’s pictures on the wall of stars who had appeared at Flicks.

“He said: ‘Elvis must be dead right enough’.

“I asked him why he said that.

“He replied: ‘If he was alive he would have been at Flicks’.

“True enough.”

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