Alongside The Flamingo and the Winter Gardens, Newquay’s Blue Lagoon was one the premier venues in Cornwall in the 60’s.
Site of the Blue Lagoon (just behind the horse and cart). Thanks to Delphine Dunstan
Site of the Blue Lagoon, 1925
The Blue Lagoon started life as 27 Cliff Road around the early 1930s. The property was somewhat larger than standard town houses and contained servants quarters in the attic. A reverend purchased the house and the property next door, converting it into a Temperance Hotel, it was then owned by friends of the Coster family and operated as the York Hotel. Around 1937/38 Harry Coster's father bought the property and converted it into a penny arcade, keeping the first and second floors as accommodation for the family.
With the onset of the second world war and the death of Harry's father the property was requisitioned for the war effort, being a base for training pilots prior to the D-Day landing. The family were allowed to stay in the building as long as they helped with the war effort, so married family members used to cook cakes and serve tea to the troops when they were dismissed in Cliff Room. Unmarried aunts had to work in the NAAFI at RAF St Mawgan.
Once the war ended the property was converted in the first version of the Blue Lagoon, which included large murals of bare chested beauties reclining by blue lagoons, which cuased quite a stir at the time! The ballroom went from strength to strength, following the latest trends. Delphine Dunston (Harry's daughter) remembers dancing to the Lancers, strict ballroom, the jitterbug and the creep, amongst many others! Even during the ballroom era lines would form down the road, with dancing taking place every night throughout the week
Cliff Rd 1960, with the Blue Lagoon top left
The venue always had a summer band and Harry used to travel to Archer Street in London to interview them. Roy Kenton was a favourite and he played several summers at the venue. He several of his band members loved it so mich they ended up moving to Cornwall!
Roy Kenton Orchestra at the Blue Lagoon (image courtesy Gary Kenton)
The Blue Lagoon Ballroom in 1961 (courtesy Peter Hicks)
The venue was completed redeveloped around 1964/65 into the club that lasted much of the 60s and 70s. It attracted many professional artists and musicians. By working as a syndicate with The Flamingo in Redruth, the Winter Gardens in Penzance and Lido in St Austell they were able to secure expensive artists at a reduced price as they could do three gigs in a row.
It had a steady crowd of regulars but during the summer months brought in thousands of tourists. With the RAF base (St Mawgan) just up the road, there was also an abundance of forces personnel in town at the weekend, keen to dance and have a good time.
.As the 60s began to happen the Blue Lagoon starting putting on beat bands. Ballroom would remain throughout much of the sixties, with lessons and dancing taking place on Monday nights. Bingo, always popular with the holiday crowd, would fill the gaps taking place most days, however Saturday night would become the beat night. It was also the place to visit on a Saturday night, with teens making their way from all across Cornwall fill it to the rafters.
The Onyx Set live at the Blue Lagoon 1965
The Good Times
Safron live on stage, 1970s
With the combination of locals, visitors and RAF boys Blue Lagoon would be packed every night. This allowed the venue to put on plenty of both local bands and bands from out of county who were yet to make a name for themselves. One of those bands was The Fenmen, who secured a couple of hits with Bern Elliot in the early 60s. The band featured future members of the Pretty Things. Their harmony driven Beach Boys influenced sound would go down extremely well with the surfing and beach crowd.
As Chris Dyer of Minehead band The Witness Four recalls; the patrons did not mind what you played as long as it was Beach Boys number...........
The Fenmen live at the Blue Lagoon. Photo’s courtesy Ugly Things Magazine (check out the Fenmen CD through the Ugly Things website HERE)
The venue would also bring in some big names who were riding high in the charts. Wishful Thinking was another Blue Lagoon regular, bringing the ever popular harmony sound to the Newquay crowd. The venue also featured big names of the day, such as Deep Purple who were just making a name for themselves with ‘Hush’. Ambrose Slade would undertake a residency before making a name for themselves as Slade.
Screaming Lord Sutch would also play the venue on one of his many visits to the county. Bemused patrons were treated to a display of Lord Sutch decked out in his horns and stage gear waving the plastic stage palm trees at the crowd!
Ginhouse live on stage
Throughout the week there would be a local band holding residency. On a Thursday a named band would play, usually a semi-known band (or one coming to the end of it’s life…). The local band would then move from the main stage to play support to the better known band, to a second support stage, with the known band as headliner.
Saturday night would bring in the big bands, mostly who were currently riding the charts. The lesser known big name band would then move to support act and the local band would perform as opener on a very small stage off to the side. The local band and lesser known national band would rotate through 45 minute sets, with the main band coming on after the two bands had each performed two sets. The main band would then play for around 1 ½ hours. So on a Saturday night there would continuous live music from 8-1am.
Pete Berryman remembers the Blue Lagoon;
We, The Shondells (above), were resident band there in the summer and I was there before that with The Drifters. We alternated through the evening with the resident dance band, Ken[?] Butterworth. Us "beat groups" killed tha dance bands. Pity really, they were good musicians. At that time we were morphing into mods and I got a black eye coutesy of St.Columb rockers just outside the entrance.
The venue was also often used as a rehearsal space for the Staggerlees, they could often be found grouped around the Dansette listening to the latest records, then playing it note perfect later that evening!
Disaster was averted sometime in the mid 60s when builders were brought in to undertake some roofing work. Unfortunately they were clearly not up to the job as the roof collapsed soon afterwards. Not only did the roof come down but part of the building to as the builders believed that the steel RSJ’s ran across the complete building. When they removed the intermediate pillars it was found that the RSJ’s were joined on each pillar causing the roof to collapse and destroy part of the building!
Photo’s courtesy of Newquay Old Cornwall Society
Blue Lagoon, 1966/7
The site would be built up, creating an imposing three stories, including shops on the ground level. As with many venues at the time as the 60s moved into the 70s live music started to fall out of favour and the disco would take over. Harry's wife passed away in 1972 and he started to lose heart, eventually selling the venue on not long after. He kept the shops located underneath the club which were run by his daughter Delphine's husband until their retirement. It would remain a disco venue and ceased putting bands on around 1977/78.
Keith French MBE remembers the venue;
I ran the 'Keith French Roadshow' throughout the 1970s. I regularly toured the West Country appearing at quite a number of venues as well as' The Garden ' included ' The Blue Lagoon ', Newquay ,'The 400 Club ',Torquay ,'Tiffs in Town', Union Street Plymouth . As well as a number of smaller venues we were also regulars at several military base clubs, notably the naval clubs at Culdrose, St. Mawgan and Plymouth. The tours were arranged by DJ Rocky Rivers who had established the idea of 'London DJs' coming to Cornwall. Rocky had turned agent and worked from a small office in Oxford Street later changing the business name to 'Mushroom International'.
Keith at the Blue Lagoon
The street level would open as shops, with the upper levels being a disco and the back area looking out over Great Western Beach became, quite appropriately, a swimming pool complete with water slides hanging precariously over the edge of a large drop to the beach. A lift was also added to the outside edge of the building.
The venue would continue a leisure and entertainment centre throughout much of the 80s and 90s until the pool closed and the site was redeveloped. The shops would move out and the pool removed and it would open as a single building as part of the Barracuda pub chain, later to be taken over by the Springbok pub chain. Springbok would start to introduce occasional live music back into the venue (having Bo Diddley booked to perform prior to his death), although nothing now remains from its 60s heyday.
Sadly the economic downturn has led to the venue currently being closed and up for sale once again.
The site of the Blue Lagoon in 2009
Blue Lagoon gigs
Here are a list of gigs that took place at the Blue Lagoon. Over time more will be added. These are all taken from advetisements placed in the local press, so there is a likelyhood that some didn't take place, or bands were changed. If you have any to add please get in touch.