Published: 06:00, 10 July 2021
| Updated: 12:02, 10 July 2021
Disco sounds could be swapped for the whirl of dentists' drills if plans to take over a popular entertainment complex get the go ahead.
A dental group wants to turn Layzells nightclub, a former Warners holiday camp on the Isle of Sheppey, into a suite of surgeries.
The tunes-to-teeth scheme will come as a shock to generations of Islanders who have danced the night away at the complex for more than 70 years.
But owners Trevor and Gaynor Layzell say they are retaining the use of one of the three function halls so parties and weddings can still go ahead at the disco-dentist venue in The Broadway, Minster.
Mr Layzell, 60, said: "It will be sad as it could be the end of an era but at the same time I'm looking forward to having a bit of a break. We’ve been here 22 years, since 1999.
He added: “It is still early days so I can’t say too much. We may still be here at Christmas. But if this goes ahead, we want to lease back the function hall with the drapes so we can continue to offer somewhere for people to have parties and wedding receptions.”
He stressed: “None of any existing bookings will be affected and we are planning to reopen the nightclub when regulations are eased on July 19 so we can claw back some of the money we lost during the Covid-19 lockdowns.”
He confirmed a show featuring DJ Ironik on Saturday, July 31, will go ahead and there will be grand "reopening" weekend with Founded on Friday, July 23, and DJ Lucas H on Saturday, July 24, now nightclub Covid restrictions have been eased.
He said an offer to buy the building had come “completely out of the blue.”
“The group said it had been looking for a place to open more surgeries with off-road parking for the NHS.”
Plans were submitted to Swale council in May to convert the rest of the premises into eight surgeries but the decision is pending as council officers await more details.
Mr Layzell admitted: “Running a nightclub can be stressful and none of us are as young as we were.
"Pre-Covid, it was not unusual for me to work an 18-hour shift on a Saturday, sorting out weddings and functions in the halls during the day and then looking after the nightclub from 11pm to 2am in the evening. But we are too young to retire completely."
Memories of Warners
Warners was Sheppey's original Hi-De-Hi holiday camp. Leysdown may have led the way for Island tourism with caravan parks but it was the Warner brothers who took on the might of Butlin's to lure Londoners to Kent's holiday isle.
It was opened in the mid-1950s and could accommodate 700 visitors between May and September. For that, it needed an army of locals to work as waiters and waitresses, chalet maids, bar staff, cooks, part-time porters and chaperones for the Warners Wagtails kids' club.
There was also a chance to become a Warners Greencoat entertainer. It was the perfect recipe for a holiday romance.
Among those hooked under the spell of the original Love Island was Crackerjack comic Don Maclean. The veteran funnyman who performed with Peter Glaze and Michael Aspel on the children's TV programme met his wife Toni there 57 years ago.
Don, now 77, was learning the ropes as a Greencoat and Toni was on holiday with her parents and sister.
He recalled: "I was at drama school but working at Warners for 18 weeks over the summer of 1962. My duties included organising sports days, swimming galas, knobbly knee contests and hosting the glamorous grandma competition. I also had to wave the guests home on Saturday mornings.
"On the last week in August I spotted Toni. She was beautiful. We chatted long enough for me to know she had been a Butlin's Redcoat at Ayr and then she was gone."
Incredibly, Toni returned with her family the following year. Don recalled: "I saw her on a stool in the ballroom and went over and said I recognised her from the previous year. She seemed a bit shocked."
This time the pair kept in touch and carried on a long distance courtship with Don living in Birmingham and Toni in London with her parents.
They married in February 1967 and now have two children, Rory and Rachel, and three grandchildren. The couple returned to Sheppey in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of them getting together. Alas, Warners had long gone.
It was sold to businessman Mike Irwin in 1983 and the name changed to Irwin Park. All references to Warners were removed. A number of the old chalets and buildings still survive today although the chalets are now all privately owned. Mr Irwin died last year aged 93.
In its heyday, the camp boasted its own swimming pool, boating lake, tennis courts, crazy golf and non-stop entertainment in the ballroom where the Eric Delaney Band was resident for many years.
Don and Toni weren't the only ones to find partners.
Lynda Lorenzo said: "I worked at Warners' Minster camp for the 1977 season. I was a receptionist during the day and worked behind the bar in the main ballroom in the evenings, which is where I met my husband Mike. He was a cabaret artist and entertainer. We married in 1978. I have so many happy, crazy memories of that time."
Beverley Nolker's mum Joy was also a singer and performed there with her dad in 1965.
A roll-call of past staff includes Cyril Burns as deputy manager and Robbie Montgomery as entertainments manager. His wife Kathy looked after the children's entertainment.
Ross Jones was the manager in 1962. Deborah Havill's dad Jack Perry was manager from around 1965. She said: "We used to live in the bungalow by the skating rink.Valerie Brindley was secretary and Doreen Luxon looked after the linen room."
Paul Carr, who has an impressive collection of old photos of the site, recalled: "As a kid in the 1970s, I was sneaked in at the gate by my gran every Friday for the farewell leaving party. No one recognised the same little boy tucking into the sandwiches every week!"
Former Labour councillor Libby Tucker also ended up at the camp while a schoolgirl, working her summer holidays as a waitress in the 1960s and as a lifeguard at the pool after school and at weekends. "Those were great days," she said.
David Appleby said: "I worked as a plate boy in the 1960s and also boxed one evening in the hall. At the end, the campers were asked to support our boxing club by throwing money into the ring. The money was divided up amongst us all. Great memories."
Ray Seager, now steward at Minster Working Men's Club, said: "I was 13 in the mid-sixties and the boxing club from the Secondary Modern School in Sheerness used to put on a show every week. One of the events was a David and Goliath contest where three smaller lads would be given inflatable clubs and told to attack a much bigger boxer. It was hilarious."
Ray Jeffrey added: "I remember old Basher Brindle, a teacher from the old secondary school, having boxing there during the week. The highlight was a blindfold boxing contest where four boxers were in the ring and all blindfolded. It was a great laugh but could be painful at times."
Allyn David Roberts remembered: "I worked there as a barrow boy and also used to be part of Basher Brinkley’s boxing show."
Tony Cox said: "I was an apprentice hairdresser 1957 and worked in the camp's photographic darkroom."
Photographer George Poule, who owned Studio 137 in Sheerness, had the franchise to run the photo booth. One of his party tricks was to balance on tables. Tim Oxley was also one of the camp's photographers.
Budding musician John Jones admitted: "I was there Tuesdays and Thursdays - pretending to play the guitar."
Some even remember being guests. Jonathan Wells said: "I was at Warners during the summer of 1962 when my mum entered me and my brother in the children's fancy address contest. I went hidden as a Punch and Judy show. Neither of us won!"
Feel free to share your own memories in the comments below...