Preston fire: RIP Tokyo Jo's – the ‘ultimate discotheque’ of fun memories for me and so many Prestonians

RIP the North West’s ‘ultimate discoteque’. Nearly 20 years ago now my old drama tutor at Cardinal Newman College, Peter Hartley, sent a letter to the Lancashire Post asking readers for their recollections and memories of their nights out in Preston at the biggest club in town – Top Rank.

By Nicola Jaques
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 4:11 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd May 2022, 4:11 pm

These fun-filled anecdotes from the 60s would go on to form the basis of a musical production he wrote, Top Rank Groovy, and in which I played a lead role at the Charter Theatre in 2003.

For that cast and production team it was a very memorable time itself.

After curtains went down on the final performance, we headed straight across the road to Church Street to celebrate in the club which was still the centre of youth culture in the 90s and noughties – Tokyo Jo’s.

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Nicola Jaques, left, as part of the production of Top Rank Groovy at Cardinal Newman College in Preston as a 17-year-old

Today, the Charter Theatre is yet to reopen and after this week’s tragic events, the former Odeon cinema, ‘Tokes’, is no longer standing.

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Many of the emergency services who worked through the night on Thursday to make the city centre safe had spent some of their youth at the iconic venue.

Our club days are now part of the history books too – my kids will never know the embarrassment of being retrieved from the sticky third floor by a parent for breaking their curfew.

I had written before about the show and my ‘best bits’ of this club when DJ Brian Hudson decided to rewind the clocks and revive the ‘best years’ of Preston’s club scene for the Tokyo Jo’s Reunion in 2019. Such was its success, the event is to make a further comeback for the Jubilee celebrations on June 2, at Baluga Bar. The night will now hold even more room for sentiment.

Social media feeds have been flooded with shock and heartache that a building that once meant so much is now nothing but ash.

In the previous column I had written: “Tokyo Jo’s was a place where love literally bloomed. In a world before Tinder, this worked out well for my best friend who met her husband there at 17, agreeing to a date as he had a car. Friendships were made, broken and mended again in the toilets and Friday at college would be spent reliving the parts remembered from the night before. Good times.”

It might just be time for another musical…