This Cheesy, 1980s Promotional Video for a Small Town Nightclub is UK Nightlife's Finest Hour
Halifax's Coliseum was the only club in the country that featured crocodiles and French cuisine. You'll want to go back in time ASAP.
This post ran originally on THUMP UK.
Halifax is one of those forgotten towns that run up and down the length and breadth of Britain, destined for very little. It is Nantwich, Nuneaton, and Newark, Ramsgate, Royston, and Runcorn. These are the washed out sub-urban spaces littered with tatty precincts and permanently-closed pubs, the places that hum with missed chances and the same regrets. They're the towns most of us grew up in, the same ones where most of go back to die. But Halifax—tucked away in West Yorkshire, between Bradford and Huddersfield—wasn't always like that. Halifax used to be the home of something very special indeed.
No, we're not referring to the factory that made Rolos and Quality Street, nor are we referring to one of the biggest textile factories the world's ever seen. We're not even referring to turn-of-the-millennium advert mainstay Howard Brown. What we're talking about today is a club that no longer exists. That club—God bless its relentlessly tacky soul—was the Coliseum. Housed in a former cinema—now a listed building—the Coliseum was (probably) Calderdale's premier night out. Now, I've never been to the Coliseum. In fact, I've never really been to Halifax. However, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I'm confident in stating the following: Halifax's Coliseum looks like it was the greatest club our grey, grim, and grubby little nation's ever seen.
If you don't believe me—and, at this stage you're fully justified in being somewhat suspicious of my quite possibly ever-so-slightly spurious claim—then I highly recommend that you make yourself a cup of tea and set eight minutes aside to watch the video below. The Coliseum Halifax Corporate Video is more than just a corporate video aimed at business owners looking for the perfect venue for a product launch and a slap up lunch. It might just be the greatest promotional tool created by anyone with anything to do with nightclubs ever. Yes, reader, it is even better than the godlike work carried out by Monty and his team of graphic design wizards down the road in Todmorden. Watch and learn my friends:
Every second of that film, every fucking frame of it, is better than the last. I've now spent hours of my life bathing in its glorious glow. Sure, I could have been reading Proust or getting good at gardening, or doing literally anything else in the world than sitting about in my pants watching a decades old promotional video aimed at corporate backers, for a club that no longer exists in a town I've never stepped foot in, but, this is me, this is it, this is the life I chose, and I don't regret a second of it.
After all, how could I? How could anyone who's spent that long in the virtual company of Chris Deith, the head honcho of Entertainment Concepts Ltd—the owners of the Coliseum—or the venue's entertainment director Peter Marks, regret anything? What grounds does a soul who voluntarily devoted a Sunday afternoon to trying to work out who exactly the mysterious, solitary saxophonist who struts into shot on several occasions was—or what he's doing there in the first place—have to complain about anything?
Before delving into what exactly it was about the Coliseum that makes it look like the kind of pleasure palace you'd more readily associate with Las Vegas than Mytholmroyd, a quick note on the absurdly dynamic duo of Deith and Marks, a pair of pros who deserved to be as big as Peter Stringfellow, but sadly receded into the devastating distance of memory. The interplay between the two—Deith, the grey-suited face of middle-management mediocrity, Marks, all showbiz pomp and crowd-pleasing charm—is nothing short of stunning. One can only begin to imagine the wild nights that went on in Deith's foliage-lined cubicle, presuambly located in the central command tower of the Coliseum, the two of them dousing themselves in champers, screaming "WE ARE GODS, NOT MEN" at one another until the sun rose on another perfect day in Halifax, emperors surveying the conquered kingdoms below.
No decent club can rely solely on the unbridled charisma of two maverick businessmen hellbent on kicking the Calderdale club scene up the arse. What the Coliseum offers prospective partners and regular punters alike is unlike anything you've ever seen in any other entertainment complex in the North West—or beyond!
The Coliseum is more than just a club: it's a fucking theme park for adults who like good grub, the occasional cocktail, and the haunting sight of the aforementioned saxophonist blowing his lonely way around the perimeters of the space. In fact, the good food on offer seems to be a point of real personal pride for Deith. And understandably so, given that the Coliseum offers a variety of fine dining options for the discerning dancer. Fancy a quick sausage roll and some pineapple cubes? Head down to the indoor market where they'll lay on a buffet for anything between 20 and 800 hungry guests. Up for something slightly more substantial? Wy not take a seat at Panache, the French-style eatery that Deith assures us has "a silver service, a la carte menu," which offers, "the finest cuisine for 40 covers." Then again, maybe you had the coq au vin at Panache last time and fancy spicing things up a bit. If that's the case then you'll definitely want to fill your fat gut with the rich cuisine on offer at Jambalaya Joes, a feel-good spot offering the very best in "American-Italian-Mexican dishes," all of which the big man himself notes are "fast and efficient," and if speed and efficiency aren't the parameters with which you assess the quality of a restaurant within a nightclub then, well, more fool you.
All that amazing food's gonna get you really thirsty, isn't it? Handily, the creatives at the Coliseum haven't forgotten that the predominate reason why people go to nightclubs is to get wankered. There are numerous watering holes within the vast site, so everyone's catered for. Down on Main Street—the simulated thoroughfare that splits the club in two—why not glug on a cocktail or fifteen at "20s bar" All That Jazz, followed by a pint of pernod inside Pat O'Briens, the swishy New Orleans themed spot where you'll find "a crocodile hanging from the ceiling," just as you would in your standard New Orleans establishment, where hung-crocodiles are part of the furniture. Still not quite pissed enough but also feeling hot and bothered, the sweat running down your back like a waterfall? Then you, my friend, will probably want to sit down with Chris and Peter in the air-conditioned VIP area.
We'll get back to the entertainment shortly, but before that, we need to think quickly about the corporate element of the video, which is clearly where Deith's interests lie. In addition to stressing that the Coliseum's "only five minutes down the road from the M62," there's a real sense of pride in his voice when notes that him and the rest of the team have a "fantastic working relationships with local hotels, at four star, three star. and two star," level—essential information for any CEO looking to get their head down after a long day's eating, drinking, and partying in Halifax.
And one can only begin to imagine that after all that, plus the ceremonial unveiling of whatever product it is you've booked the venue in order to hawk out, you'd need a decent night's kip. Especially after you've experienced the unique sensation Deith describes as, "the drama of the electronic blinds rising to the ceiling and revealing your product." This, remember, is all taking place in a nightclub. In Halifax.
At this point, we'd do well to remember that as brilliant a corporate venue as the Coliseum clearly was, at heart it was for regular punters like you or I, hepped up on Lambrini and looking for a place to dance the night away. This is where Peter Marks gets to shine. The final section of the video focuses primarily on what this big northern teddy of a man has to offer. If there's two things that Peter Marks likes, no, loves, it's lights and lasers.
In a thrilling segment which sees Marks trapped by the sheer amount of technology at his disposal—imprisoned by the very lights and lasers that have brought him so much joy over the years—whilst a disco remix of Richard Strauss' "Also Spach Zarathustra" pounds away with the fecund ferocity of gabber at its most powerfully potent, we begin to understand the raw appeal of the Coliseum: imagine being out of your nut whilst Marks is tinkering away with the awesome lightshow. Fuck fabric. Fuck Berghain. Fuck Oceana. This is the real deal.
One thing that, possibly thankfully, isn't explained, is the strange rubber-faced dancer who appears on stage towards the end of proceedings, stomping about to a beefed-up Glenn Miller record. The masked-man is one of the most horrifying things ever captured on tape and has given me sleepless nights ever since I first witnessed it. I call it 'it' because I refuse to believe that any humanity lies underneath the rotting, putrid latex case in which it's buried. Thank heavens for low-resolution tape-to-digital transfers is all I can say.
This ode to the Coliseum ends in a plaintive fashion. "Nothing shows our true potential without seeing it for yourself. I'm available normal office hours," Deith says. "And Peter Marks is available most evenings. Give us a ring on 0422 42962."
I rang the number. There was no answer. This is no Coliseum anymore. There is this, though. There will always be this video.
And the video is important because it is proof that clubs really did and hopefully still do, have the capacity to genuinely amaze. This was an entertainment complex crafted for discerning adults who liked scampi with their disco dancing. Out there in the sticks—"35 miles from Manchester, and just 25 miles from Leeds"—something magical existed. The video is a testament to that. Treasure it.