Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

One last reunion waltz for Belfast ballrooms of romance

The Plattermen.  26/5/1965
The Plattermen. 26/5/1965

The Plaza and the Orpheus in their heyday were Belfast’s two most popular ballrooms.

Sadly both have disappeared from the city scene.

But there are plans afoot for a reunion of all the dancers, jivers, revellers and lookers-on who used to pay their way in to either one of these ballrooms of romance to trip the light fantastic or just to look for someone to take in their arms and love.

The Plaza at the corner of Chichester Street and Montgomery Street was famous for its revolving stage, its afternoon dances when office workers spent their lunch hours in the quickstep or the moonlight saunter after eating their sandwiches.

It closed down for good in 1970, a victim of the Troubles.

I preferred the Orpheus in York Street which in working week days was a spacious dining hall where you could be served up a three-course meal for half a crown (two old shillings and sixpence) and at night was transformed into a dance hall where the great and the good like the Miami Showband, the Trevor Jenkins Orchestra and Dave Glover were regulars and where the late Jim Aiken was the promoter.

Now it is his son Peter, following in dad’s footsteps in the entertainment business, who is thinking of a Night of a Thousand Memories of the Plaza and the Orpheus.

And where better to stage it than the King’s Hall? It was here that a generation of Ulster youngsters learned to ice skate when the first rink in the province was laid out here in the early ’60s.

During the Second World War the Plaza was a Red Cross centre for American forces stationed here and where the great bandleader Glenn Miller dropped in one afternoon just four months before he was lost in a flight over the English Channel in 1944.

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