The beach itself at Carlyon Bay was formed as a by product of the mining industry. Waste materials from the tin and china clay mines washed down the river and collected forming a gravelly beach. As the beach developed it started to become a popular recreation area, with one of the visitors being the Prince of Wales. He suggested to wealthy locals that a sports club could be constructed on the beach. In the early 1930s the building, known as the Riviera Club opened its doors and included a swimming pool and tennis court. The local elite, including the Prince of Wales, would socialise there.
The project was never quite completed and the outbreak of war put a stop to the sites development. The beach was then used for military operations. Post war the site continued to grow and develop as a leisure and entertainment centre. By the early 60s it had become a large concert venue, with a capacity of over 2000 and was owned by Mr and Mrs Lovett. The complex became known as New Cornish Riviera Lido, while the music venue still retained the Riviera Club name.
The main auditorium was previously the two large indoor tennis courts and in the early days it wasn't unusual for a band to be performing on stage with the previous days results still on display on the board behind them! The main hall had a central pillar, which was a popular place to hang out. Due to the cavernous nature of the venue it was known to have quite bad acoustics. Unlike lots of venues at the time it did have a bar. The dressing room was less than luxurious, being the same changing rooms used by the swimmers!
Dances were run at the venue by Lesley McCartney's mother to raise money for the local Spastic Society. She was a fund raiser and teen dances were a great way to generate a lot of money for the charity.
She would make sure she was booking the right bands by giving Lesley a shopping list of bands and asking her and her friends to pick the bands they would like to see, then she would go ahead and book them, with the financial backing of the society committee. This way she was guaranteed to be booking the bands the kids wanted to see. Of course like most teenagers at the time Lesley and her friends wanted to see the Beatles and an effort was made to try and book them, but sadly they were unavailable to. Plymouth would be the nearest they got to performing in Cornwall.
To generate even more interest Lesley started up the Cornish Teenagers Top Ten Club where her school friends and local teenagers across Cornwall would send in a postal order to join, which would give them discount on their tickets. The club had a couple of hundred members at it's busiest.
The venue would bring in some of the largest names of the day including The Pretty Things, Chris Farlowe, Them, Poets, Procol Harum, Herman's Hermits, Kinks and DDDBMT. Each gig was always a sell out, and for a time it was the premier venue in the area. All shows were advertised with large, bright dayglo posters that couldn't fail to grab the punters attention. Dances would take place on a Friday and Saturday night. To make it worth their while visiting Cornwall bands would usually be booked to also play at the Flamingo and Blue Lagoon, as part of a package deal.
Nearly all of the bands would stay with Lesley and her family during their visit, which was hugely exciting for the teenager and her friends. Over time they would get to know the likes of The Pretty Things and Swinging Blues Jeans very well. They became particularly good friends with The Poets, who played quite often. Lesley remembers many nights up playing cards with the band. Them would also stay with Lesley, although Van Morrison decided to stay at a house down the road instead!
The Pretty Things and The Poets always put on memorable shows and are fondly remembered. The venue also played host to many local bands and The Intruders and Dissatisfied were two bands that were always popular with the crowd hungry for R&B. Marianne Faithful would also play the venue and is remembered for putting on a particularly poor show!
Chris Gray from The Cosmonauts remembers the Coliseum;
I played at the Cornwall Coliseum in 1966, supporting Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, as the drummer with my band the Cosmonauts. We were the youngest band in Cornwall. I was 12, Linda Cross, guitarist was also 12. Her sister Colleen on keyboards was 11, Keith Yelland on vocals was 15, and bass player Les Gill was 16. Also on the bill were the Vigilantes and the Smokey Joes. Chris Farlowe was number one with Out Of Time so as you can imagine, for a bunch of school kids to play this gig was absolutely amazing. As I remember, at the end of the evening the drummer from the Thunderbirds let me have a play on his kit. It certainly was a night to remember.
Thanks to Dave Stone
Owner Mr Lovett got wind of all the money changing hands and decided to cash in himself, running a few dances. He booked Chris Barber and Acker Bilk for a Sunday night show. Unfortunately at the time venues were unable to charge entry on a Sunday, so tickets couldn't be sold and the show had to be offered on a donation only basis which resulted in Mr Lovett making quite a loss. Sadly this may well have impacted on him allowing dances to take place and they slowly tailed off as the decade progressed.
By the end of 1966 Newquay was also becoming the place to go, with the Blue Lagoon and a number of smaller club and venues, so the dances would become fewer and fewer.
The venue would enjoy a resurrection in the 70s and punk and new wave took hold, and was a popular venue on the new wave circuit. It would play host to two of the biggest names of the era, The Clash and The Jam. It also played host to some of the biggest names in the business such as The Who and Cliff Richard, as well as many comedy and light entertainment acts.
During the 70s and 80s the complex had become and all encompassing venue. A new wing would be added and the site including a roller disco, amusement arcade, Wimpy restaurant and box office. It would become a hugely popular entertainment centre.
Andy Munro, first DJ at The Lido when it reopened in the late 1970s
The original badminton courts were developed into a disco known variously as Beelzebub, Bentleys, Quasars and Gossips. The complex would be renamed firstly to Cornish Leisure World and then Cornwall Coliseum. By the 1980's it was thriving again as a music venue, and would also play host to the Radio One road shows. It also hosted the legendary Chuck Berry.
Artistic Control on stage 1981, supporting Adam & The Ants
with thanks to Dave Stone
By the 90s the venue was in its decline, despite the occasional big names such a Page & Plant (of Led Zeppelin) and Paul Mcartney it was starting to lose out to the bigger venues in Plymouth and Devon, such Plymouth Pavilions and the stadiums who could better accommodate the more popular acts.
Sadly the venue is no more. For the past 5 or 6 years the complex has been part of a bitter dispute over its development and the original buildings are now falling apart and lengthy debates take place on whether it should be demolished. Considering their ritch history the buildings are a sad sight to see in their current state.
Lesley and her mother kept a fantastic record of performers at the venue in the mid-60's through her guest book which many of the artists who performed signed. Lsely also kept a number of contracts from the venue and I'm delighted to present at the bottom of this page.
Cornwall Coliseum gigs
Here are a list of gigs that took place at the Cornwall Coliseum. Over time more will be added. These are all taken from advetisements placed in the local press, so there is a likelyhood that some didn't take place, or bands were changed. If you have any to add please get in touch.
23 January 1965
06 March 1965
The Long And The Short
"ITV, BBC Stars, Ready Steady Go, etc."
01 May 1965
Big Four, Individuals, Intruders
"Big Beat Night"
15 May 1965
22 May 1965
05 June 1965
19 June 1965
Beau Brummell and His Gentlemen of Music
24 July 1965
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch & Titch
31 July 1965
Dave Berry and the Cruisers
05 August 1965
11 September 1965
02 October 1965
Did you play in this band? If so please get in touch!