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Robin Pike

Friars founding Father
 

A look at Friars Phase One

In the beginning was 1967. 

It was like this.  I had always been fascinated by all things theatrical since my teenage years.  When I moved to work at Aylesbury Grammar School in 1966 I soon realised how accessible London stages were.  Having already seen the Rolling Stones in Exeter, the first Isle of Wight Festival and several NME Poll Winners Concerts at Wembley, my interest in rock music was kindled.  It is important to understand the cultural and social milieu that was 1967. 

There was a cataclysmic explosion of musical and artistic change.  Every rule went out the window.  All types of music changed, with experimentation being the norm.  Books have been written about this!  I went to little music clubs all over London………the Ram Jam in Brixton, the Flamingo/Temple in Wardour Street, Tiles in Oxford Street, Klooks Kleek in Manor House, The Marquee, The Cue Club in Praed Street and to Mothers in Erdington, Birmingham.  They were generally small, hot, seedy and sometimes violent.  They were crucibles from which musicians emerged, having served their apprenticeships……….and not only in music! I have had some of my greatest nights in these clubs.  To give a couple of examples, Otis Redding at the Ram Jam Club, and Jimi Hendrix downstairs in a pub in Golders Green are etched in the memory. 

 I began taking coach trips to the Saville Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue on Sunday evenings.  This was the theatre that Brian Epstein owned and used to present major rock acts (The Four Tops, Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd etc).  We left from outside the Grammar School at about 6pm Sunday nights and all sorts of people from Aylesbury turned up, mostly wearing army greatcoats as I recall.  So I soon realised that Aylesbury had an audience for rock music. 

Meanwhile back at the Grammar School I had a lively Tutor Group.  Adrian Roach and Jerry Slater had decided that they were going to start a Folk Club above the Derby Arms.  At pretty much the same time, I decided that there should be a rock Club in the town.  I ran a Sixth Form Dance at the High School in December 1968 with a local band, Smoky Rice Blues Band.  The drummer was a pupil in my A Level Chemistry Set, Dennis Cutton.  Cutting a long story short, David Stopps turned up that evening wearing an enormous hat and informed me that he managed the band.  We kept in touch!  

Back at AGS, Stephen Rennie had discovered the Ex Services Club which was in Walton Street next to Perrys the Ford dealership.  In fact it was between the Sea Cadets hut and the railway line. I went down there one day after school and made enquiries. The Hall seemed ideal.  So I went to see David and suggested starting a Club in Aylesbury in the Ex Services hall.  At first he was not at all keen as he didn’t think there would be a large enough audience to make it viable. But we brought in John Fowler who was staying with David’s Mum at the time and formed a partnership. Next we met with Adrian, Jerry and Terry Harms and agreed to merge their Folk Club and our Rock Club. 

A membership card is a prerequisite of any club so we produced one. The logo on the front was designed by Kris Needs in the school Art Room and I took the membership rules from my membership card for Mothers. We found a printer in Windsor who did the posters for other clubs (Rikki Tick) in the area.  

 June 1st 1969 we started up.  It was from the start an ‘underground’ club of its time.  I have written about this in more detail in other places. There were some problems in the form of the caretaker and his wife. Also, we soon found that the row of houses at the end of the driveway on Walton Street were in fact Police Houses!  But that is another story…………… 

Robin Pike

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