Campaigners hope TV series will save Full Monty working men’s club

As anticipation builds for the release of a new eight-part Full Monty series, hundreds of Sheffield residents are hoping that renewed interest in the stories of the group of steel workers turned strippers will help prevent the demolition of the working men’s club where the original film was made.

In the 1997 Bafta winner, made and set in post-industrial Sheffield, characters Gaz, Dave, Gerald and Lomper choreographed a striptease act to earn some cash after losing their jobs at the local steelworks.

Now, in a case of life imitating art, the community is coming together to try to overcome adversity – and campaigners are confident the new series will boost their attempt to keep the wrecking ball at bay after developers closed the club.

With the original cast reprising their roles 25 years since we last saw them in all their glory, the new series, filmed in Sheffield and Manchester, will see the gang battling crumbling healthcare and employment in their city. The original screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who also wrote Slumdog Millionaire, is behind the reboot, and Andrew Chaplin and Catherine Morshead are directing.

There is little chance of Shiregreen working men’s club featuring in the latest offering, but back in 1997 it was used as the focal point of the characters’ lives and provided the concert room where they bared all in the film’s famous final scene. Today, though boarded up, it still sports a sign on the front saying “Home of the Full Monty” and has attracted visitors from all over the world.

When the venue was bought in 2013 by the local firm Eyre Enterprises, members and regulars expected it to maintain its status as a tourist hotspot, but in summer 2018, the club members were asked to vacate, and owner Peter Eyre kept the club open for 12 more weeks before closing it in November. It has remained vacant since.

In recent years, the firm has bought several other working men’s clubs in the area, one of which has been demolished to make way for apartments. Shiregreen locals are desperate to ensure their club does not meet the same fate and believe the new series, set to run on Disney+ later this year, could have come just in time.

Shiregreen was originally chosen as a location by 20th Century Fox for “its feel of authenticity as a community hub in the north of England”, says former steward Ann Bentley. She was behind the bar during filming and recalls the chaos as scores of extras turned up every day for weeks. “They were paid £40 per day – a small fortune,” she laughs, “but we didn’t get anything – except of course the extra punters who wanted to catch a glimpse of the action.”

“I remember the Oscars feed cutting to us all at the club as we waited to hear if we’d won the best picture prize,” she says. “In the end, Titanic just pipped us to the post.”

Bentley met her husband, Roy, at the club in the 1960s and went on to run it with him when he was made redundant. When Roy died 13 years ago, the Sheffield Telegraph ran a piece dedicated to him, the “real Full Monty man”.

When the club closed four years ago, Bentley set to work compiling a petition to save it in her husband’s memory. Despite getting more than a thousand signatures, the club’s future remains in the balance, with the windows boarded and a demolition notice hanging outside. There has been no public announcement about what the owners’ intentions are for the building.

Bentley believes Covid has slowed down proceedings for the developers, and hopes the new TV series might garner the attention the campaign needs to finally succeed. “It’s such an important place for so many people, and it would be a dream come true to see it open again.”

Peter Price, a councillor for the Shiregreen and Brightside ward, agrees. He used to hold his regular surgery there, and says: “The notion that there is no future in this type of club is wrong. It retained a large membership right up until it closed, and even then there were several bids submitted by groups who wanted to hire it. It could thrive again in the right hands.”

Long-term club secretary and life member David Howden says the campaigners “won’t back down” and adds: “The club has been open for nearly a century, and the community needs it now more than ever.”

The Guardian contacted Eyre Enterprises but it declined to comment.

The new series will be aired in eight 60-minute instalments on Disney+, Star+ in Latin America and Hulu in the US.

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