Whilst some clubs are adopting a 21st century attitude to socialising, many others in the LS area have kept the traditional community spirit alive. Holbeck Working Men’s Club are one of a few who have neglected the trend of changing into a music venue, and have recently received a blue plaque marking them as the oldest continuously open working men’s club in the UK.
Originally established in 1871 and built at a cost of £1,172, the club included rooms for refreshment, billiards and bagatelle, and a lecture hall for 300 people. Holbeck recently welcomed the Slung Low who manage it as a traditional members’ bar, and the rest of the building as an open development space for artists, a place for other companies to present their work, and for Cultural Community College classes.
Sally Proctor, of Slung Low explains more,: “The Holbeck Working Men’s Club did face its own challenges to stay open, but fortunately the community mobilised and a team of volunteers worked hard to secure the club’s future. To further strengthen the club’s stability, and echoing its educational past, Slung Low recently made the club their home too, and now run a series of pay what you decide theatre performances and Community College courses – which are always offered to those who live in Holbeck first. We also have a variety of different community groups and individuals using the space on a pay what you decide basis. This summer we had healthy holidays here providing daily activities and hot meals to those who might otherwise not get one during the summer break.”
It is these kind of initiatives, proved successful by Brudenell, Holbeck and some others in Leeds too, that can keep working men’s clubs alive as both a traditional hub of the local community and a progressive attraction to new generations. Long may they continue.