Chronicles: Ventnor on the dance floor – Julisa’s Night Club

In the years after the Second World War, dancing was hugely popular – an estimated four million people a week attended dancehalls in the 1950s in Britain, and it was suggested that 70% of couples  had first met on a dance floor.  This week we look at the end of that era, the 1970s, when society was changing rapidly and young people were looking for new entertainments.

The Winter Gardens in Ventnor, which had held hugely popular dances to big bands in the 1950s (see Ventnor on the Dance Floor 2),  had been rebranded as ‘Cascadia’, and advertised a range of attractions for visitors.  The 1974 Town Guide boasted that: Evenings in Ventnor can never be dull! At Cascadia there is a lively summer show in the concert hall.  In another part of the building is a disco which caters specially for the teenager. The Guide went on to highlight a new venue in the town, illustrating it with the picture below: If you like to dance and listen to music until the small hours then you can join Ventnor’s own Night Club, Julisa’s, which has atmosphere and decor hardly bettered in the West End.

‘Ventnor’s own Night Club’ was  in the basement of a building in Zig Zag road, behind the Royal Hotel which had been granted permission in for a licensed club called ‘The Julisa Club’.   These were not easy times for Ventnor – the  railway station had been closed in 1966, and the hotels in the town were actively looking for new ways to attract visitors.  In 1970, the year Julisa’s opened, the Royal was offering  a fully inclusive ‘Bargain Break’, at £6 per person per weekend.  This covers two nights’ accommodation, two days’ meals including early morning tea, morning coffee and afternoon tea, and gratuities. A bargain indeed!

Julisa’s opened that summer on 20 June, and  DJ Dave Cash came to Ventnor for the opening ceremony.  Every effort had been made to give the right atmosphere, including a round glass dance floor , with what was described as a ‘cave like’ interior, and ‘intimate atmosphere’.  It was all quite decorous, with folk music on Wednesday evenings, special prices for married couples, and tickets available from the Bus StationThe club was advertised as Julisa’s discotheque Zig Zag Road (behind the Royal Hotel). The IOW’s new discotheque is open from 8.30 pm to 2 am every night except Sunday. Live Trio music every Monday and Folk music every Wednesday. Resident DJ and dancing every night. Fully licensed, waitress service, an exciting round glass dance floor and an intimate atmosphere.  Gentlemen: Ties and jackets on Friday and Saturday. 

That was the year Jimmy Hendrix played at the Isle of Wight Festival,  attended by an estimated half a million people. Tastes in entertainment were beginning to change, as were social attitudes.  By 1971 advertisements for Julisa’s suggested a rather more relaxed atmosphere:  Join us in the groove down Zig Zag Road.  A discotheque where you’ll meet a happy-go-lucky crowd – holiday makers and locals – your kind of people.  Julisa’s is your kind of place if you love dancing … The discs are slipped on the turntables by our resident DJ (he’ll turn you on too!)

Visitors, locals, and young people who had come down to Ventnor to work the season in the hotels filled Julisa’s night after night and many Ventnor residents still have fond memories of  its heyday; more than one young man proposed to his future wife on the dance floor, and as well as the music there was typical 1970s food available at the bar – burgers, scampi and chips.   But the club didn’t outlast the 1970s; by 1983 it was open on Fridays and Saturdays only, and advertised as available for private hire. After complaints from the Hotel residents about the noise it finally closed in the mid 1980s.

Lesley Telford, Ventnor & District Local History Society.  Sources: the Society Collection including Fay Brown’s Indexes. This article originally appeared in the South Wight Chronicle in 2016.