Top Rank in the 1960/70s

My second home

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, I worked under the auspices of David Packham as the official photographer for the Top Rank Centre and covered many events, mainly at the Ice Rink, which became my second home.

Young skater at the ice rink

Music for the skaters

During the normal skating sessions many parents required photos of their kids and particularly the skaters from the competitive figure skating and ice dance groups who would push hard to get a few minutes ice time. My pal John (Tommy Terrell) was resident DJ who split shifted with an organist providing music for the skaters and also playing requests, so he was kept pretty busy. I can’t remember the name of the organist, but I believe his daughter was the bar manageress.

Summer skinny dipping

When the disco, ‘The Orange Time Piece’ opened on the ground floor, John became resident DJ there. He was great and always provided the right music to keep the floor filled. Many of the regulars and staff may remember the warm summer nights we when would all cross the road to the beach and go ‘skinny dipping’ to cool off. Alternatively, we would fill our cars to bursting with passengers, and drive out to the open air swimming pool on the Under Cliff walk at Rottingdean.


Charity Walk

The funniest charity walk was the night about 100 people volunteered to walk from Streatham Silver Blades to the Top Rank Ice rink. I do remember after finishing the walk having to get my car and drive almost half the way back to Streatham twice to pick up stragglers. There were many aching legs and sore feet that week as in those days no one trained or prepared themselves apart from maybe fortifying with alcohol, they just got out there and did it.

Comments about this page

  • Hi Bob, I was very interested to read your page as during the late 60s and 70s, I also was working in Ice Rink Management originally at Westover Ice Rink in Bournemouth and then I moved on to Silver Blades Ice Rinks in Birmingham, Leeds and Bradford with a shorter spell at Steatham. I also knew Jimmy Saville when he was Manager at the “Spinning Disc” Disco in Leeds. I never cease to be amazed at what a small world it is!

    By Tony Mould (05/04/2011)
  • The organist at the ice rink was Len Jones, I remember he would lean on the DJ consul stick, a Bert Kaempfert LP on, smoking a cigar. When it finished he would say “Suppose I have to play the organ for a bit”. The Rank would have loved to get rid of him as he was on massive money because the Musicians’ Union was very strong in those days.

    By Tommy Terrell (06/04/2011)
  • Hi Tony, I did not often get down to Bournemouth in those days, maybe just 2-3 occasions but one of the managers from West Street moved down there. If I remember correctly it was a Peter and he drove an early straight 6 Mustang which was a great pose-mobile in those days when most of us were running around in little Mini Coopers or GT Cortinas. I did get to Silver Blades on a few occasions and Altringham and had previously made it all the way to the Paisley Pirates stadium but that was during the SS days. A dangerous place then for a southerner to be when there was a match on! Fortune smiles upon us as I see we have an honoured guest among us with Tommy who may be able to fill in some missing links. Thanks TT for the name you have provided and the possible one you emailed for the bar manageress. I do remember she had the most amazing perfectly manicured finger nails – like scimitar blades! Yes the cigar, Len was never without it. So Tony, did you ever manage to pay a visit to West Street?

    By Bob (06/04/2011)
  • I think the young skater is Jill Simpson who later taught at the Queens Square Ice Rink. Len Jones was the ice rink organist. He moved from Altrincham to Brighton when the Top Rank rink opened in 1966. Len never settled in the South and moved back to Altrincham in about 1969. His daughter was Marilyn Jones. We were good friends but she gave up skating and moved away with her boyfriend in 1967. The biggest Jimmy Saville event was in 1970, I believe, when Top Rank supported a walk in aid of the Penny Gobby House.

    By David Ward (27/08/2011)
  • In 1966 I was assistant manager at Manchester Ice Palace. Len Jones was the organist. We were good friends as I also played the organ. Marilyn was a young teenager. The ice rink eventually closed because of new owners Mecca who refused to close down in summer to allow the ground to thaw. The center of the rink started to rise and the pipes were showing through.Their answer? Close it. A sad end for the old place. It’s still standing to this day because it’s a listed building. Derelict now. Great shame.

    By Philip Duncan (16/11/2011)
  • My best holiday: In Brighton in 1969 together P; died yesterday. We went to Top Rank for dancing. Now I’m looking at the places I remember and I’m thinking … Farewell, my friend. Thank you for friendship.

    By S.P. (23/02/2012)
  • Message for Bob Catt – when you worked as a photographer, did you take any photos of The Love Affair when they played at The Suite ’68 or ’69? Thanks.

    By Irene Dobson (nee Budd) (16/10/2015)
  • For Irene Dobson. Many apologies for the long delay in replying to your request. I still make the occasional visit to this website but usually to see what new posts are added, it never occurred to me to check on this one, as you can see the previous comment to yours was in February 2012.
    I recall ‘The Love Affair’ playing at the Suite but there were so many performers and bands we covered back then especially when the management wanted photos of themselves with the various acts for publicity purposes.
    The bad news is that during the late 70s David Packham had a fire in his studio darkroom and many thousands of negatives were destroyed along with valuable photographic equipment. Sadly the negatives cannot be replaced. David passed away a few years ago but I still have contact with his son and daughter. His son lives in the USA but I am hoping to catch up with him when he visits. Hopefully he can locate any surviving negatives from that period as I often get asked for pictures especially from the ice skaters.
    There are several Brighton Night Club and Disco group pages on facebook you could give them a try also the flickr website might be of help, maybe type ‘The Love Affair’ into their search engine.

    By Bob Catt (24/07/2016)
  • Does any one know what happened to Anne Mansell and Lyn Steffan that skated with me from 1969 until the closer in the early 70s, they were good friends  but I lost contact when I moved to Canada. 

    By (14/09/2016)
  • I remember being at the ice rink in the early 70s! I loved the popular music, but also the electric organ that was sometimes played! I lived in Peacehaven, so I often used to miss the last bus back, and would have to walk! Why was it closed? The same thing happened to Streatham and Southampton ice rinks!

    By Dawn Hamilton (15/05/2017)
  • My happiest teenage years were spent at this place. I first started skating at the SS Brighton aged 12. After it was closed down, I refused to go to the Top Rank ice rink on principal but missed skating so much that I relented which was just as well since I met my beautiful wife (Pat Sajnog, at the time), aged 17. We were together for 44 years before she died of cancer in 2014. I too used to stay and help resurface the ice in exchange for tickets. I have the dubious honour of being the only person to fly head first into the 8ft deep hole where they disposed of all the snow. I misjudged my run in with a scraper full of snow and my skates stopped dead on the aluminium plate in front of the hole and in I went. Fortunately, being half full of snow, I wasn’t hurt. Some of the guys I remember were Paul Daniels (very fast skater), Big George, Martin Pinker and his brother Mick, and another guy named Mick who wore yellow tinted glasses. It was a fantastically sociable place with it’s bar looking down on the ice surface. I think I might have snogged Dawn Hamilton (see above), one New Year’s Eve when the balloons dropped at midnight. Were you a honey blond and usually wore a blue figure skating dress, Dawn? Happy days!

    By Andy Vary (08/01/2018)
  • Hi Andy, I skated with Paul at Richmond when he joined the speed club in 1972, he went on to have a very successful career winning many top events including the overall British championship and representing both England and Great Britain.

    By Bill Sykes (19/04/2018)
  • Hi There, I worked at top rank for a while.The dj was Graham Star. The girl at kiosk
    was Loraine.
    Paddy Tully was Head Supervisor and the Manager then was Dick Owen.
    I used to clear the ice after it was used by jeep towing ice cutter.They were good old days, I wish it was the same now.

    By Michael Ide (08/10/2019)

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