Karen Koren: The Palais was right up my alley in the 60s

Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones at the Palais de Danse in 1964
Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones at the Palais de Danse in 1964
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I read with dismay that the Palais de Danse in Fountainbridge has been demolished to make room for more student accommodation.

It began life in 1909 when it opened as The Grand Skating Rink – the longest roller skating rink in Edinburgh. Skating rinks were all the rage at the time. It became The Coliseum Cinema and Ballroom in 1911. It became a dance venue on Hogmanay 1920 as the inaugural Grand New Year’s Ball of the new Palais de Danse, known as “Scotland’s most exclusive ballroom and social rendezvous”. From the 1930s onwards the Palais became one of the most popular haunts in the city, hosting up to 900 people on a good night.

Sean Connery worked there as a bouncer in his youth, using the backstage area for bodybuilding. Legend has it that Sir Sean or Big Tam as he was known, frequently contravened the Palais’ strict doorman dress code, by shedding his bow tie.

During the 1960s, the venue was even used by the BBC for their long-running Come Dancing series, the forerunner to the hugely successful Strictly Come Dancing.

The Palais was famous for it’s revolving stage which allowed two bands to play at the same time and change over without a break in the music or dancing. The great novelty was that the revolving stage was hand-cranked – poor person that had that responsibility.

It has such memories for so many people in Edinburgh including myself. In the 1960s it was where the best bands played. I saw Paul Jones and Manfred Mann there, in 1964, I was a mad fan and a bit of a “mod”. I saw and danced to The Mersey Beats, who were part of the Liverpool sound of the sixties. It was so exciting seeing these pop groups at such close quarters. The last band I saw there was The Pretty Things, who I had seen previously at the Waverley Market earlier that year.

The Palais closed for refurbishment in 1967 and never reopened due to reported structucal problems, Mecca Bingo took over the building and operated it as a bingo hall until 2006. Sad that it is no more, but great memories!