Artist behind murals at Chesterfield's Victoria Ballroom in the Sixties wonders whether any have survived
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Paul Norton, who was living in Newbold at the time, said: “I had so many good times at the Victoria Ballroom and saw so many really good live groups and bands. Some of the ones I especially liked are The Hollies, The Kinks, The Who, Them (Van Morrison’s first group), Nashville Teens, Small Faces, Family, Yes, and Bill Haley and The Comets.
“I was a regular at the ballroom dances and gigs. The Vic Saturday afternoon dances in late 1961 or early 1962 were the first dances I ever went to. I loved dance music and also found out I could actually dance!
"Eventually I got pretty good at it and even made up my own dances and won the odd dancing competition there. For me the 60s were an amazing time to have my teen years in and the Victoria Ballroom was a great part of the youth culture of the time.”
In 1967 and just 19 years old, Paul was asked to make his mark on the Chesterfield venue where he loved to hang out.
He said: “I painted six different murals on the main stage at The Vic, three on the side walls, all the back wall and one on the entrance stairs landing. My favourite was a girl on a motorbike who I called Motorcycle Irene after a track by a US West Coast group called Moby Grape They were painted just by myself in ordinary emulsion paint over a period of a week or so at times when the ballroom was closed. The reaction to them as far as I can remember was great.”
The artwork came about through Dave Oxley, the Top Rank manager of the Victoria Ballroom at the time. Paul said: “He knew I had painted Peter Stringfellow’s Mojo Club in Sheffield earlier in 1967. He asked me to come up with some ideas to brighten up some of the ballroom.
"I think I painted the murals at the ballroom maybe a year before Top Rank sadly closed it. There was a gap of a year before local music entrepreneur Dave McPhie did a deal with the building’s new owners to reopen it. He used the ballroom for dances and the former restaurant on the floor below as a progressive music club called The Velvet Underground.
“I am nor sure whether the paintings survived until Dave’s ownership or had been painted over. If they were painted over, why and by whom is a mystery. The building has had a lot of alterations since then so I am not sure what remains of the ballroom area. There could well be a piece of wall there with one of my murals under a layer of a paint!"
At the time he was asked to paint the murals, Paul was employed as assistant display manager at C&A Modes in Sheffield which was a good job for a trendy teenager. He said: “Fashion-wise at the time I was a mod who was gradually turning into a hippie.”
Paul went on to paint murals at two more of Peter Stringfellows’ clubs in Sheffield, The Down Broadway and The Penthouse, and another Sheffield club called The Ark.
He said: “I painted the frontage of Some Kinda Mushroom record shop in Chesterfield along with several of the town’s boutique shop signage such as Mr Sweeney, Paraphinalia and Barbarellas. Many other jobs followed in people’s houses and businesses over quite a few years.
"After I left C&A’s I worked for Littlewoods Stores, based at the Chesterfield store and eventually covered an area which included Mansfield, Nottingham, Doncaster and Lincoln.
"I later worked as a project officer for Nottinghamshire County Council’s country parks. I was based at Rufford Country Park and oversaw work at Sherwood and Bestwood Country Parks.”
Paul, who is now 74 and retired, lives with his wife Gill in Worksop.