Gliderdrome History

The Gliderdrome as it appears today is a vastly different building to the original which was, in fact, an open air skating rink opened in the mid-Thirties by brothers Ernest and Sydney Malkinson. It soon attracted many of the younger Boston population and changes began just after the outbreak of the Second World War when the building was roofed over as a security measure. And it wasn't long before time was made available at the end of skating sessions for dancing.


Skating was still popular but as time progressed it was the dances which became more popular - especially with the British and American servicemen who were based in the area - and well-known artistes from the music world who were drafted into the services appeared in the `RAF bands' and `Army bands' which played there during the war years.


Fire destroyed the `original' Gliderdrome in the late Fifties but a new building was soon in place devoted entirely to dances. Many local dance bands performed at the venue, along with top dance bands and `names' of the time.


Pop music came more and more to the forefront and it soon became the norm for top groups and singers to be booked for the Gliderdrome. There was usually a top name supported by two or three other groups, some from the local area and others from further afield, and the hall soon began to get itself a name for providing top entertainment.


Among those appearing at the 'original' Gliderdrome were:


  • Victor Sylvester's Ambassadors Orchestra
  • Joe Loss and his Orchestra
  • Nat Temple and his Octet
  • Johnny Dankworth Seven
  • Harry Gold and his Pieces of Eight
  • Cyril Stapleton and his Orchestra
  • Ted Heath and his Music
  • Kenny Baker and his All-Star Band
  • Mick Mulligan and his Jazz Band
  • Stanley Black and his Orchestra
  • Ivy Benson and her all-girls Orchestra
  • Chris Barber and his Band
  • Eric Delaney Band
  • Ray Ellington Quartet
  • Rory (Shakes) Blackwell and his Guitar and his Blackjacks (the first rock 'n' roll band)

The Gliderdrome was destroyed by fire on Sunday, May 24 1959, but the 'new' Glider was opened within a year on Wednesday, January 27 1960.



Within a few years The Starlight Room was added to the Gliderdrome and the Sixties became the `Golden Era' for the venue, attracting top class groups and names from England and America and it became the norm almost every Saturday night for a top name or group to be appearing. Bingo was becoming popular in the country and the complex soon became one of the top halls in the region for bingo and pop entertainment.


The Room soon became known nationally and on some of the really big nights it was not unusual for the Market Place to be full of buses from literally all over the country. And on some nights the queue for admission stretched from the dance hall, all the way down Shodfriars Lane (before John Adams Way was built) and round into the Market Place!


All the top names of the time appeared there - well, almost! It is claimed that only The Rolling Stones and The Beatles failed to appear, but the latter were booked to appear as a support group when they were just starting out. Sydney Malkinson always claimed later that he must have been the only dance promoter to have turned down The Beatles. He cancelled the booking because, at the time, they were unknown, he hadn't heard of them, and £35 was a lot of money (then!) to pay for an unknown group.


Unfortunately, vandalism brought an end to regular dances in the mid-Seventies but then, in 1996, it was decided to reopen the Starlight Room again for occasional dances, by 2008 attendances had waned and was closed again. In 2012 a trial Christmas Dance was held and now nostalgia takes over as hundreds attend to rediscover the magic of the Gliderdrome days.


The venue is still run by the Malkinson family. Sydney's son Stephen and Pat & Pauline's eldest son Andrew are partners in the company.

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