The Mountbattens Story Page 5
The Lounge enters the age of the multi-leisure complex and the discotheque
by Wes Walker

Brian Walker persisted with the lifeblood of diversification: the same principle had been applied to the 007 Wetbikes (achieved through W&F Enterprises Limited), gaining sanction of the Department of Transport to hold and operate a full fleet of new-range wetbikes, armed with the offshore idea of placing new action on the seascape with its acquiring of a private buoyed ocean channel in Bridlington Bay.

For Mountbattens, the demand from the public proved overwhelming, far outreaching early expectations as a massive financial success that, even after the five eventual years, looked to be everlastingly popular with the public in their entirety. It would have been easy pickings to exploit this appeal to establish an exclusivity, yet no discrimination was created. It required its full physical capacity to cope with the throng.

The show fraternity was habitual amidst its enduring audience. Few holidaymakers of the wider age range left the region without paying visits during their stay. Performers and names appearing at the theatres from the Spa Royal Hall to the Scarborough Futurist, the New Theatre to the Theatre Royal, were often to be found in the main club for as long as their own shows were playing.

However, with the sheer level of responsibility they had taken on in recent years, Brian and Elizabeth Walker were too distracted elsewhere to operate it, which in any normal instance would have been a situation sounding alarm bells to the investor. To have entrusted such a large financial outlay to the use and judgment of others, each by now showing signs of possessing a self-distorting view as hosts of their own exciting new attraction, was beginning to seem like absolute folly.

Away from the day-to-day of the various exhibitions in different resorts, Brian and Elizabeth had all on with Egypt Promotions Ltd, creating and organising The Treasures of TutAnkhAmun, which nationally toured its genuine artefacts and relics as well as having bases of semi-permanence. Demanding in its conception, a high level of intricacy to attain utmost accuracy was required for the creation of the accompanying articles of replication. A section of the national exhibition was brought to Mountbattens, mindful of sustaining the latter’s daytime versatility in the more intellectual public mindset.

(Possibly hatched with tongue firmly in cheek, another enterprise brazen enough to feature “…Greatest Show on Earth” in its designation at any rate served to bring more additional events and shows into Mountbattens.)

And there was the indefatigable pursuit of projects in the pipeline, which Brian knew couldn’t be allowed to cease just because Mountbattens was now up and running.

Although W&F now specialised in a new business avenue of interiors for tourist developments – open-plan renovation, shop schemes, vaulted ceilings and arches – the Mountbattens stonework, entailing new hearths and balustrading, was commissioned by Kenneth from outside contractors at considerable additional cost.

In an escalating need to finance the money pit, further distance was placed between Mountbattens and Brian & Elizabeth, their new home being pledged to support the venue. Once sufficiently underwritten by their resources, Brian’s brothers gained themselves a camarilla, thereby making the environs very much their own realm of influence and autonomy. As this happened – especially with the gradual introduction of the entourages to be found encircling such places – Brian and Elizabeth became distinctly excluded from what stood as the embodiment of all their investment, especially one that in the original planning had not necessitated the catalogue of liabilities that had now been entered into.

Even today, Elizabeth Walker recalls that upon entering the place they were both received with an attitude contrived amongst staff, treating them distantly “as though we were spies, that we shouldn’t have been there. There was always a silence that befell everyone present when we walked in. On the first occasion, Brian turned and whispered to me, ‘You know, It’s as if were on the outside, here’.” As absurd as it sounds, she considered herself lucky even to get offered a drink.

Though they could see all this happening, the couple did not suspect in the earlier stages that it was costing them dearly and irretrievably. What could be observed was that the brothers' management presided over a welter of unnecessary expenditure, such as the first LED-messagemakers and a handful of the first Metros to come off the Austin-Rover line, each with the commissioned crest emblazoned across their sides. 

All of the Walkers Tussauds resources were being poured into Mountbattens, enabling a bash to be staged each weekend. Though never difficult to draw in hordes of people from all around, to accommodate them with contingency plans for added floorspace and a vast weekly outlay for stocks and power – over £1,000 per week going straight to the electricity board – was a gigantic drain: this added burden placed a demand on Brian & Elizabeth Walker to proliferate medium-term ventures that bucked against diversification and returned to the showmanship formula. Takings from the existing Rock Shops were decanted into the nightclub. For much lower outlay, ‘experience’ attractions such as The Devil’s Dungeon and The Black Hole, a stratospheric type, proved surprisingly good takers in the compulsion to find a revolving fund of extra ‘below-the-line’ operating capital.

Records show that from 24th June 1981 Walkers Tussauds were being called upon to directly pay many of the year’s major bills. Understood as a medium-to-long-term investment, Brian and Elizabeth did not anticipate instant returns, but with such a massive show of success anyone could have expected to have started to draw money back out. Even by 24th June 1983 when such an enterprise would normally be expected to carry its own on a revolving basis, the couple would be funding it out of their own pockets.

The more growth was generated to feed, the more it appeared Brian’s brothers sought to expand. At the same period The Royal Mint was opened at 1 & 2 Garrison Street, opposite the Garrison Square which had been vacated by the Pier Buffet. Under the name of The Sandancer, a new amusements appeared across from the Cliff Street corner and involved an extensive, and thus overly expensive, contemporary redevelopment of the valuably elegant former Spalls at 1 to 3 Esplanade. (For the showman fraternity at large, it deposited Kenneth with the nickname of ‘Dancer’).


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New Photograph: Cork coasters marked 'The House of Walker' were to be found in a number of places, including Mountbattens. Wes Walker says: "I think it was an attempt to establish an umbrella name, which may have been down to Kenneth Walker". Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: A section of the Egyptian set that went up in the centre of the Viceroy Suite and in many venues like it. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Advert for the Treasures of TutAnkhAmun exhibition at Mountbattens. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Elizabeth Walker's promotional artwork for the TutAnkhAmun exhibition. This shows the accepted side of Egyptalia as the desert-toned part-gilded profile of Nerfertiti, and then it segues into the sand-faint, ghosted face of a mummy, which was always the public's immediate idea of the subject. Photograph: Wes Walker

New Photograph: Elizabeth Walker's promotional artwork for posters and hoardings, designed for the reprised exhibition. Photograph: Wes Walker

Published by:
Skelter Publishing LLP
© 2006

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