Back in time to first ever Aylesbury Friars club nights

A special celebration event is set to transport visitors back in time - to the first ever Aylesbury Friars club nights.

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 12:27 pm
Early Friars club organisers John Fowler, Adrian Roach, Terry Harms and David Stopps. Mr Pike was not pictured as at the time he was working as a chemistry teacher at Aylesbury Grammar School, and felt it may have been frowned upon

A special celebration event is set to transport visitors back in time - to the first ever Aylesbury Friars club nights.

The event - at Temple Street Wine Bar has been organised by Robin Pike - who, together with David Stopps and John Fowler started the iconic club.

Mr Pike is taking on DJing duties on the night alongside Friars founding member Kris Needs - and both will channel the spirit of original DJ Andy Dunkley, playing key tracks from the era from bands such as Mott The Hoople, Van der Graaf Generator, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson and The Beatles.

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Graham Bond at one of the early Friars events

Then a chemistry teacher at the Aylesbury Grammar School - Mr Pike fell in love with club nights after attending events at venues like The Ram Jam in Brixton where he saw Ike and Tina Turner and Mothers in Birmingham.

Mr Pike also ran coach trips to big shows, and many former pupils remember a famous trip to London to go and see Jimi Hendrix. He was responsible for organising acts for school dances - and it was a meeting with David Stopps through that which led the pair to start talking about making their own event.

Mr Pike, who worked at the Grammar School for 29 years, said: “It all started because I met David when I used to run Aylesbury Grammar School dances. He was managing a band called the Smokey Rice Blues Band and one of my pupils was the drummer. I booked them for the Christmas dance.

"After that we met up and discussed the possibility of the club.”

Pink Floyd playing at an early Friars show in Dunstable. The first nights were held at the Ex Services Club in Aylesbury

He added: “The first club in phase one was really quite underground and quite different, it wasn’t just music we also had a light show. The DJ Andy Dunkley was very well-known and I had first seen him at The Roundhouse in London and asked him to come to Aylesbury.

“On the nights we also sold underground magazines like International Times and Oz. We did realise that it was exciting and different at the beginning, but we didn’t know whether it was going to be viable for Aylesbury.”

The first Friars club night was held on June 2 1969 and they were always held on Monday nights at the old Ex Services Club building in Walton Street. But as what is known as the first phase of the club took off, it ran into problems - because of residents in police housing nearby complaining about noise - and a general (and unfair) perception about the hippy nature of the club’s clientele.

But before the club was forced to find alternative premises they managed to welcome a host of acts including John Peel - who instead of taking a fee to DJ at the Quintessence evening just asked that the first 100 club-goers were allowed in free.

It cost seven and six to get in - and the Temple Street Wine Bar event (held on June 3 - the nearest Monday to 50 years since the first night) will charge the closest to that in today’s money - £5, with the profits donated to the Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity.

The night is set to be nostalgic for those who remember the original clubs. But Mr Pike is keen to make it clear that everyone is welcome to come and sample just what it was like back in the day.

He said: “People coming back will remember the club and we are expecting to see lots of old friends, like Pete Frame who founded Zigzag magazine. It’s definitely an opportunity for people who were part of the early club to meet up again. But it is most definitely open to everyone - when we started the club in 1969 it was pay on the door, and that’s what it will be. No tickets in advance, and we have the benefit of both rooms so it should be an excellent night.”

He added: “We called the club Friars because of the historical significance to Aylesbury - there was a friarage in the centre of Aylesbury. But I came up with the idea because it lent itself to an image - and one of the early hand-outs there was an outline of a friar wearing a habit. Then Kris designed a membership card.”

Kris Needs, who is organising the event with Mr Pike, added: “Robin was my chemistry teacher and he knew that I did psychedelic posters - I didn’t go out like the other kids, I just stayed in and did these posters and Robin would display them on the classroom wall. I was only 14 but he asked me if I wouldn’t mind designing the membership card. “I had been on his coach trip to see Jimi Hendrix and we got talking. The blob in the design on the back of the membership card was a blot with my pen - and then I tried to make it look like it was meant to be there!”

“The DJ Andy Dunkley at the club was amazing with granny glasses and hair down to his waist and purple velvet trousers. I just looked at him and thought ‘what a cool job’. Ten years later and I started DJing myself.”

The Friars club event starts at 7.30pm on Monday, June 3 at Temple Street Wine Bar. All are welcome.