George Jones recalls dance hall days of 1950s and 1960s in Coleraine, Portstewart and Limavady

The halcyon dance hall days of the ‘50s and ‘60s which saw the likes of Roy Orbinson and The Who visit the North West of the Province are being revisited in a new exhibition.

By Graeme Cousins
Friday, 22nd July 2022, 3:44 pm

In the 1950s and 60s, the area was home to many popular venues including The Boathouse in Coleraine, The Strand Ballroom in Portstewart and Limavady Agricultural Hall which were all run by well-known local promoter Bobby Platt.

He built relationships with band managers and tour promoters in Belfast and London which led to local performances by chart-topping international stars such as Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Lulu and The Who.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Museums Service wants to hear from people who experienced those events and others, and who may have photographs or memorabilia to share, as it prepares for an new exhibition about dance halls through the years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Fred Hanna Band at the Strand Ballroom in Portstewart in July 1963. Image courtesy of the Chronicle and Constitution Archives

One man to have played all three venues in the North West is Northern Ireland showband star and radio favourite George Jones.

He said: “I played in the Strand Ballroom with a group call the Thunderbolts which was the forerunner to the Monarchs which included Van Morrison. That would have been around 1958.

“Later I played in the Boat Club and the Agricultural Hall with the Dave Glover showband, circa 1966.”

George, who recently played the Arcadia Reunion with Clubsound in the Royal Court Hotel in Portrush, added: “Those venues always had a seaside or holiday feel. Plus meeting girls from Portrush, Coleraine and Londonderry was always special for young lads from Belfast!”

Showband favourite George Jones

Explaining more, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Councillor Ivor Wallace said: “Dance halls were the leading social setting of their time, and it’s where many couples would have first met. If this is you, your parents or grandparents please consider getting involved and sharing your story with our Museums team.

“Significantly, for so many in our community, memories of the local dance hall and the music associated with them, transcend boundaries of class, education and religion – they were a place where people were able to enjoy their shared love of music and dance.

“This exhibition is an opportunity to showcase this exciting period in local history and I’m looking forward to seeing what we uncover with the help of the public.”

The exhibition is scheduled for September to December in Coleraine Museum.

If you can help by recalling your memories or loaning any items to help illustrate the history of dance halls, please email [email protected] or phone 028 2766 0230.