Variety club that launched the careers of Gary Barlow and Lisa Stansfield to close

The Willows Variety Club in Salford is to close after 46-years of entertainment. The venue has been home to some of the biggest stars of music, comedy and variety since it opened in 1966.

The Willlows is credited as being the venue that set singers and TV personalities Lisa Stansfield (right) and Take That front man Gary Barlow on the road to success with its new talent events. It also played host to established acts including Peter Kay, international pop group The Drifters and more recently the Salford Music Festival which saw over fifty bands and DJs performing at the club.

Sport also played a big part in recent years at the club with boxing proving popular, including a fight with Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan taking place.
However the last performance at The Willows took place at the end of January and the owners have undertaken voluntary liquidation with debts of £294,610.

Owner John Wilkinson told the Manchester Evening News that the economic downturn was to blame, “The business was affected like every business in this climate,” adding, “Most of those debts are my money. It is an absolute disaster. We met every obligation – we didn’t cancel any events.”

The owners have blamed the demise of the cabaret and sports venue on the smoking ban and cheap supermarket alcohol prices.

A spokesman for, the firm brought in to deal with the insolvency, Ideal Corporate Solutions said, “Following meetings of shareholders and creditors, resolutions were passed placing the Willows Variety Centre Limited into Creditors Voluntary Liquidation …The company was placed into liquidation on the grounds that it was unable to pay its debt as and when they fell due”

The entertainment complex was once part of the now defunct Salford sports stadium, which relocated last year when Salford Rugby Club moved out. Plans to demolish the buildings were already in advanced stages, however the proposal to incorporate a new variety club building within the new housing complex now seems unlikely.

Both Stansfield and Barlow as well as becoming chart toppers with their pop music also turned to television presenting. Lisa hosted Tyne Tees‘ music show Razzmatazz while Gary proves to be a popular judge on Thames Television’s talent show The X Factor.