THERE’S a scene in Billy Liar, filmed at Bradford’s Mecca Locarno in 1962, in which the protagonist’s tangled love life catches up with him.

Tony Thornton knows how Billy felt. Aged 16, Tony was the lead singer in Ricky Preston and the Great Pacifics; the first band to play at the Mecca’s Monday night sessions for teenagers.

“We were on a revolving stage. My first girlfriend was at the front, standing next to a girl I’d met that week. It was a bit awkward for me," says Tony. "Then my girlfriend said: ‘That’s Ricky Preston, he’s my boyfriend.’ The other girl said: ‘No, he’s my boyfriend.’ I could see all this from the stage! One of them finished with me that night...”

Despite his romantic mishap, Tony has fond memories of the Manningham venue. “It was the centre of everything in the Sixties. We loved playing there - we were billed as Yorkshire’s top group,” he says. “Ricky Preston was my stage name. I met my wife through the band, she was a singer and came to an audition. We’ve been married 49 years.”

Like many people who remember the Mecca, Tony has been saddened to see it empty and rundown over the past decade. Earlier this year the T&A reported on plans to refurbish and re-open the venue, which has gone by various names over the years, including Dollars and Dimes, The Maestro, Pennington’s Live and the Town & Country Club.

A planning application by Sukhi Singh, of S&A Developments says: “The aim is to invest in the building to transform the once iconic nightclub, which contains some magnificent internal features...once a large part of Bradford’s night scene and now derelict for more than 10 years.”

Opening as a ballroom in 1961, the Mecca became one of the North’s hottest nightspots, with artists queuing up to perform on its revolving stage. Over the decades acts as diverse as Chuck Berry, the Sex Pistols, the Osmonds and Belinda Carlisle appeared there. The venue was in TV’s Come Dancing, films Billy Liar and Rita, Sue and Bob Too, and a Top of the Pops Special.

As an extra in Billy Liar, Erica Russell had to stand outside the Mecca with six other ‘supporting artists’. “It was raining and freezing,” Erica recalls. “We hung around for hours. I was 16, I’d gone straight work, after changing into a mini skirt. My boyfriend (now my husband) was across the road, keeping an eye on me, eating bacon sandwiches from a stand. I went home on the last bus at 11pm, my dad was waiting up for me.”

Erica auditioned at Bradford’s Midland Hotel after spotting an ad in the T&A. “They wanted girls 5ft 10in tall with blonde hair. The audition was with the director, John Schlesinger. I went on my lunch break, I didn’t tell anyone. I worked as an office junior at Listers Mill, I got £2.3s a week. For a weekend on Billy Liar I got £40 - a fortune!

“As well as the Mecca scene I was in the big street parade, in an army uniform. It poured with rain then too. Tom Courtenay sheltered in the warm between takes. We had to hang around in the rain.”

Erica went to see the film with her family when it came out. “I’m 71 now and I’ve shown it to my grandchildren. It’s a nice thing to be part of - all because I was tall for a girl,” she smiles.

Paul Rawlings legged it to the Mecca with schoolpals in the early 1960s. “We were regular teeny-boppers on Monday dinnertimes,” he says. “We attended Princeville Secondary on Legrams Lane, we’d take a trollybus to town, sprint along Manningham Lane to the Mecca for an hour and a bottle of coke, then back to school. Happy days.”

As a child in the mid-1960s, Susan Stocks went to the Mecca on Saturday mornings. “My friend and I danced to records of the time, then a few years later I went on Saturday evenings. Once my cousin and I were taking a breather when a pair of arms reached between us and picked up our drinks (tonic and lime, as I was 17). As we objected two young men said: ‘You can have another drink when you’ve had a dance with us’. That was the first meeting between my now husband and myself...we’ve been married 42 years.”

Over the years Susan and her husband, David, saw various acts at the venue, including Madness and T-Rex tribute groups.

For Raymond Clayton, the Mecca was the place to be in the 1960s and early 70s. “I met my first wife there,” he says. “Sometimes I went with friends on Fridays and Sundays. I remember a friend meeting a girl there on a Friday, arranging to meet her at the door the following Friday, meeting another girl on Sunday and taking her on Friday instead - walking straight past his original date!

“In the late 90s, when it was Pennington’s, a friend had some free tickets for The Hollies. As he, his wife, my second wife and I approached the entrance Mr Pennington was there, welcoming people. Bearing in mind I hadn’t been there since the Mecca days, when Mr Pennington looked at me and said: “Hello, lovely to see you again” my wife gave me a funny look. I was, of course, totally innocent and had been told before that I had a double in the area. Given that I don’t wander socially too far without my wife (only to Valley Parade), we laughed off the mistaken identity.”