The Jalgos Journey in Preston – 1962 to …?

Posted on - 24th March, 2024 - 6:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, History, Nostalgia, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Pubs
Jalgos Sport and Social Club in Rose Street Pic: Google
Jalgos Sport and Social Club in Rose Street Pic: Google

History is a story of the past. As a historian I am a correspondent of the past tasked with bringing it to life and sharing it with a wide audience today. I love hidden and obscure histories and it has been a great honour and privilege to be trusted to bring the history of Preston’s Caribbean community to life and share it with the wider community. The history of this community is very much a part of local and national history. It has been a labour of love to research, document, write about and teach schoolchildren in Preston and beyond about this rich and vibrant history. A further prestige is being asked to collaborate on two vitally important local and national projects this year. An exhibition and project to celebrate 50 years of Caribbean Carnival in Preston and the creation of a Caribbean Cricket Archive.

Read more: Special gin launched for Preston Caribbean Carnival’s 50th anniversary celebrations

The aim of this second project is to give community members the tools to record and document the history of Caribbean cricket and social clubs in Britain. Preston possessed three cricket teams – Jalgos, Caribbean and Caricom – and two social clubs – Caribbean Club and Jalgos Sports and Social Club. Thus far research for this project has uncovered stories of legendary cricketers, the establishment of the cricket teams and clubs, the tale of the sole female member of the Caribbean Club dominoes team, punk gigs, hard-core techno and breakdance events in both social clubs and the creation of the Jalgos Art Project display with St Stephen’s Primary School in Broadgate.

Read more: Oldest surviving member of Preston’s Windrush community celebrates 100th birthday

Following the delivery of workshops about the history of Jalgos the children produced 18 pieces of art depicting this story, some of which can be viewed in this article. As this project was about living history it stopped with the Save Our Club campaign of 2010/11 when Jalgos fought for its existence against the Tithebarn redevelopment scheme. A small group of us roared like Lions of Judah and mounted a successful campaign to save Jalgos from the wrecking ball. It saddens me to inform you that the spirit used in this campaign is needed once more. At this present moment in time Jalgos is afloat in troubled waters and urgently needs your support to stop it sinking without trace. It is a cultural institution and we must come together to save it not just for today but tomorrow and beyond. It is in an extremely important part of Preston’s living history but it is in danger of becoming a permanent story of the past.

Jalgos Save Our Club t-shirt
The Save Our Club campaign of 2010/11 saw Jalgos fight for its existence against the Tithebarn redevelopment

Following the closure of Preston’s Caribbean Club in 2009, Jalgos Sports and Social Club became the sole remaining West Indian social club in the city. When Jalgos opened their doors in 1976 it was the culmination of a 14 year journey to find a permanent home. It started life as Jalgos West Indian Cricket Club in 1962 as a direct challenge to those who advocated racial segregation in Preston. Despite a plethora of pubs and dance halls in Preston, West Indians were only welcome in a small handful of establishments. These included Regents Ballroom, Queens Hall, The Jazz Bar, The Mitre and a few other public houses. Otherwise socialising took place at Blues or bring your own bottle parties at various private houses within the community. Held in various West Indian front rooms not just in Preston but nationwide, these parties derived their name by playing the latest Blue Beat records on a Bluespot radiogram. Until the advent of West Indian cricket teams playing in local leagues, these were the only avenues for this community to socialise. The arrival of Jalgos West Indian CC in the Preston and District Cricket League in 1963 would soon change this.

Jalgos Blue Beat artwork
Blue Beat record artwork

Gladstone Afflick had previously noticed West Indians wandering aimlessly around Preston and decided to organise an informal cricket team and they played for hours on end most days in Avenham Park. One morning on his way to work in Horrockses Mill he made his regular stop at Heaton’s Newsagents on Stanley Street to purchase a copy of the Daily Mirror newspaper. On this momentous occasion the proprietor Mr Heaton suggested that Gladstone formalise his cricket team and apply to join the league. A meeting was held at 172 London Road and several names were put into a hat. Jalgos suggested by Justin Morelese was drawn and an application was made to join the league. This was duly accepted and Jalgos West Indian CC began life in the Third Division of Preston District and Cricket League in 1963.

Read more: A voyage of discovery into Preston’s Windrush history

They had a team of fast bowlers and ferocious batsmen. Bowling at the speed of light and hitting the ball into the stratosphere, the cricketers soon gained legendary status and began to accrue a vibrant and extremely vocal following. Their rise through the divisions was meteoric as they swept all before them. Their success and presence on the park was a catalyst for community cohesion. Living thousands of miles away from their Caribbean island homes in a cold unwelcoming climate, a community of warm friendly people whose lives were infused with daily doses of discomfort, discrimination and prejudice had something to cheer about. The cricket park on Sunday was a great place for families to have picnics and revel in the exploits of their swashbuckling heroes who had quickly gained legendary status. Their only shortcoming was the lack of a place to call home. A venue for this would not be found until 1971, and this would only last until 1973.

Read more: Preston Caribbean club Jalgos holding open day this weekend as fears grow over future

The Empress Ballroom on Fylde Road had rooms for hire. Jalgos sought to rent these rooms and when the people in charge found out it was for a West Indian cricket club, they insisted on receiving a £200 deposit and £25 a week rent. Eight cricketers managed to raise the funds for the deposit however, after two years the exorbitant rent became too much of an issue and Jalgos became homeless once more. The Foxton Centre was utilised by Jalgos for christenings, weddings and birthdays until the purchase of the Hibernian Club in the summer of 1976.

Artwork depicting the date Jalgos was established
Jalgos sign artwork

Jalgos secretary Tommy Meade had heard that this club would be up for sale. Without informing his teammates he approached his opposite counterpart Mrs Catherine Hunt and implored her to sell the club to Jalgos. Despite numerous jumble sales in the basement of Lune Street Methodist Church and door-to-door collections, there was a shortfall of £1,000 in the asking price. In the negotiation with the vendor, Tommy Meade casually asked for a loan of this money. His friend and fellow Montserratian Tommy Pond recalled nearly falling of his stool in shock at this audacity. It worked and whilst the club opened its doors for the first time in July 1976, it was officially opened by the Mayor of Preston on 10 September 1976. After a 14 year journey Jalgos now had a permanent home.

This venue staged plays written by Lewis Walker, held various island independence and reunion dances, became the place for pivotal family celebrations and gatherings, somewhere for indoor sports such as dominoes, darts and pool. It hosted a carnival troupe, Caricom CC which was formed to give an outlet for disaffected West Indian youth suffering from a discriminatory education system and overtly prejudiced police force. It gave a home to other marginalised groups such as Preston Wildcats scooter club, whom the police chased out of every pub in Preston, and a group of local punks who were forced to leave their basement home in the Jolly Farmers. Local punk groups the X-Cells and Blank Students played here. Legendary Scottish punk bands Scars and The Exploited made their English debuts in Jalgos. Beauty pageants were also held and Jalgos Spice Girls until the advent of COVID-19 held a luncheon club on most Tuesday afternoons.

Jalgos Spice Girls
The Spice Girls artwork

As you crossed St John’s Place on to Rose Street you simply had to close your eyes and follow the aroma wafting down the street. Your tastebuds would be tantalised and buzzing with excitement at the majestic smells emanating from the kitchen. Stew chicken served with rice and peas, yam, dumpling, salad roast potato and a delicious dollop of gravy awaited upstairs. On alternative Tuesdays there was curry goat on the bone and, if you were lucky, a generous helping of marrow was lodged in the bones waiting to be sucked out. Most importantly it was a weekly opportunity to touch base with dear friends. Some now sadly departed and sorely missed. Others can no longer attend not just because of old age and infirmity, but because Luncheon Club is confined to the annals of history. Jalgos Sports and Social Club is in danger of following suit.

To some it’s an obscure building on a small Preston back street that people barely know exists. To others it’s like entering a time warp. Yet this is part of its charm and regardless a warm and friendly welcome awaits. The club was established for a community to have a home from home, free from the discrimination of a hostile world. The pioneers who founded this club refused to act prejudicially towards others and welcomed everyone. In 2007, I as a stranger was welcomed and adopted as part of the Jalgos family. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jalgos for providing me not only with a safe space free from discrimination and hatred but also to those who have entrusted me as a historian with their heritage and memories. Please come and support Jalgos and ensure that our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have a legacy to enjoy for many more years to come. We stand on the shoulders of the Caribbean community elders who established the Caribbean Club and Jalgos. We must ensure their sacrifice was not in vain.

Read more: A short history of Preston’s Caribbean community – from colour bar to cricket to Carnival

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