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The place to be in the 1950s

Tripping the light fantastic at the Regent Ballroom
From the private collection of Christine Isherwood

Friday and Saturday nights out

Whenever possible, through the 1950s, a pal of mine and I went to The Regent on a Friday or Saturday night. You reached the top floor via a lift and as you looked into the ballroom, the bar was immediately on your right, and just the other side was a standing area where unescorted girls tended to gather. I am ashamed to admit that in those politically incorrect and chauvanistic days, we referred to this as the ‘cowshed’.

The Latin American break

I particularly remember the breaks that the orchestra took when the lights would swing over to a Latin American group playing from a gallery half way up the wall. In those days the average guy reckoned he only needed to have three dances – the waltz, the quickstep or foxtrot, depending on the tempo of the dance and the ‘grope’ normally reserved for the later part of the evening. Therefore, when the Latin American group came on, the floor was abandoned except for a few enthusiasts who welcomed the chance to have space to show off their talents, especially the tango.

Took Mother to a Tea Dance

On broadcasting nights they had to have a guest singer, invariably Rita Williams, as the band’s own singer had not yet received official BBC acceptance. I was also there for a Gracie Fields performance which was as much marked for the security exercised by the doorman as the performance itself. At about the age of seventeen, I took my mother to a tea dance at The Regent for a birthday treat. We had the choice of three ballrooms; Sherry’s in West Street, to which you did not tell your parents you were going, the Aquarium which was very respectable, and The Regent which was ‘The place to be’.

Comments about this page

  • Hello Ken – I’m helping on the ‘Our Dancing Feet’ project which is looking at memories of the Regent and Sherry’s dance halls. We’re looking for images of the dance halls at the moment – do you have any that we could use?

    By Katie (28/10/2013)
  • Following some weeks of dancing lessons I went to the Regent to my first real dance and spent over an hour plucking up the courage to ask a girl to dance. I am sure if she had said no I would have given up and gone home. Over the next few years, and this is from 1950 up to about 1964, I spent a great deal of my time there, in the early years at least twice if not three times a week and then Sunday tea dances. The non-partnered girls stood in a group near the dance floor and we called it the cattle market. On one occasion I asked a girl who was sitting down and when she stood up she towered above me – the only way I could see which way to go was to look under her right arm. Happy days and so many New Year’s Eves spent there. The only sad memory I have about the Regent was that on New Year’s Eve 1959 I was in the RAF and, having only arrived on the camp a few days before and not knowing anyone, I listened alone in my billet to the radio broadcast from the Regent and thought about all my pals there while I was sitting all alone. I would be pleased to hear from any old friends from those days. You can find my email address if you go to and go to the Contacts page.

    By Ken Ross (28/10/2013)
  • Hi Ken.  I am a Brighton University Fashion and Dress History student currently studying the Regent Ballroom and dancing in Brighton. I was wondering if I could contact you with a few questions regarding your experiences and memories, as the website with your email address provided no longer seems to be working.  Best Wishes.

    By Eve Flitman (19/10/2016)

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