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John A Jeffries aka jinks

John A Jeffries aka jinks, born 1947.


jinks is and has been a Birmingham Cab driver since 1969 was prior to the Nightingale a DJ a several venues.

He became involved in the Gale in 1971 and became Treasurer in 1974, "was retired" in 1979.
He came back in 1981 to remain until 1987 when he opened Partners.
He is one of the "20" who took out Life Membership to the Gale in 1983 (currently 16 are still alive).

The nickname "jinks" came about while at Kings Norton Grammar School in 1963 his friends could not win on the pin ball tables when he was around. The named him jinx which he quickly changed it to jinks - the cartoon cat - I hate these meeces to pecces - Mr jinks.

He talks of The Birmingham scene and the history of The Nightingale from inception to 1987.

10 The Jacey Cinema 1960s

jinks and his friends used to go to the Jacey Cinema. “It played ‘funnies, cartoons and news reels’. It was used by a large part of the gay community at that time and people would make ‘grand entrances’”.

One particular patron, known as ‘The Duchess’ was a man called John who was about five foot tall. “He used to mince his way all the way down the aisle, to the front of the cinema and look around to see who was in and what was available”.

After a while the cinema realised what the place was being used for; however three quarters of their customers were gay men.

20 Meg Mortimer, originally Meg Richardson aka Noelle Gordon

She was the principle boy, a thigh slapping lad who used to dress in tight costumes like Aladdin for example.”

“She was totally domineering…but she mellowed towards me…she became a wonderful person.”

30 The Nightingale Camp Hill

The Nightingale started life at Camp Hill (in 1969).
“It was a terraced property, which basically consisted of two rooms plus a backyard that was built upon. A long thin tunnel…the restaurant kitchen was on the back; the Manager’s office and the toilets were upstairs. The upstairs toilets included both a Gents and a Ladies, the Ladies was often used for alternative purposes (sex). The restaurant was an A table at the end of the room and the entertainment initially consisted of a jukebox. In the summer the backyard had a lot more action.”

jinks became involved with the club in 1971. At this point he had accepted his sexuality.
“One evening I went in, the club had two half doors to prevent anyone barging in, and Laurie Williams stopped me and told me my membership had expired. He said to me, ‘See John Jinks not paid…it is in the book.’ “I replied, ‘I’m John Jeffries.’”..‘Alright bab, go on in.’”

jinks had a black and white car that was licenced as a taxi. His car was well known as it would often be parked outside the Nightingale from 11pm onwards. (05:30)

The first Members’ Party Night was at Christmas 1973 or 1974. All the committee members brought food along with them for the buffet - “Everyone brought bloody mince pies!” At that time, women were allowed in but only when signed in by a member.

jinks was an ordinary member and started off as responsible for music organisation. He would buy the records for the juke box, change them in his own time free of charge, take the old records for his own collection and the club would reimburse him for the cost of the records. Then they had a new concept and decided to bring in a DJ and put two turntables in the restaurant area. Jinks became the first DJ at the Nightingale.

“At the very outset of the club, they used £600 of Derek Pemberton’s money to set up the club. Derek Pemberton was treasurer, Charlie Saul was Secretary, Paul Smith (aka Stan) was a part time barman and Ray Bassett was a full time barman at all four venues.”

“Laurie Williams set it up as a members’ club; if he had set it up as a proprietor’s club he would have still owned it. He would take the money from the club and put it into a different bank account. He was not pocketing it; he was going to use it to set up another club. The committee found out and sacked him.”

“…the then treasurer, John…a leather queen, motorcyclist, bank manager…found an accountant, Fred Cunningham… a lovely guy. Fred created new books and put all that money back into the club and the finances of the club.” “When John left Jinks became the treasurer.”

40 Nightingale Witton Lane

“In 1974 they bought a new bar that was a wonderful piece of carpentry and wanted to move it into the new premises in Witton Lane. The builders told them that they couldn’t do it, that the measurements did not work out. So, a group of members took the new bar out, put it on a truck and drove it up to Witton Lane. When they got there, they took out the balustrade from the stairs at the back and carried the bar upstairs. They left it in the middle of the upstairs room with a note on it that read; ‘Builders can’t move it, Poofs did!’.An alternative bar was constructed by John Profit for the Camp Hill venue and he made it out of packing cases, tables and chairs”.

The Witton Lane venue was the former Aston Social Club and the club moved there properly in 1975. They had the new bar on one level and an existing bar on another level, they put in a DJ box and used a small stage. Downstairs the layout consisted of two alcoves in horseshoe shapes, a small kitchenette with 4 or 5 tables on one side. Upstairs there was a bar, a dancefloor and a DJ box.

At the time, Disco was coming in and Jinx felt as he was out of touch he should sack himself as DJ. They got in some green, blue and red disco lights.

“After a while, they decided that the restaurant area needed to be separate and they hired an ironmonger to build a wrought iron chancel screen to do such a job. A wrought iron screen, made of three panels, 6 foot 6 inches high with a single strap across went from wall to wall, seventeen foot across.”

50 Homophobic locals

As the venue was adjacent to Aston Villa FC, there were a few problems with homophobic locals and jinx’s taxi was vandalised.

“One example of such prejudice was experienced by Michael Patrick George Dunn, aka ‘Miles Per Gallon Dunn’. One day when he was at the club, he answered a knock at the door. There was a man there demanding that the club and all of the members leave the area immediately as he didn’t want his son to be ‘interfered with’. This man had a can of petrol in his hand. Michael ‘fronted him’ and told the man that if he wanted a problem he now had one and that they were not going to run away from him. The man subsequently left”.

60 Peter Scott-Fleeman

“Peter Scott-Fleeman was Chairman of the Members’ Committee. He was a tall, a proper gentleman; he was loved by everyone who knew him.”

jinx talked about ‘The Court of Campania.’ “Peter drew the coat of arms for everyone, everyone had a different one. There were four titles, a Prince, an Earl and a Baron.”


Derek Wittham was first a cloakroom girl at Camp Hill, then Assistant Manger at Witton Lane, then Manager. jinx said “He couldn’t get out of bed, he was always late. Front of house he was brilliant, as secretary he revelled in it, at administration he was terrible.”


After a while at Witton Lane the club began to lose business; they needed to find a way to stay open but cut down on staffing costs. The licence stated that they had to provide entertainment and dancing. So they rented a jukebox and commissioned a carpenter to make a fold away dance floor. So, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and sometimes Thursdays they would put out the dance floor and turn on the jukebox downstairs. This meant that they didn’t have to open upstairs nor have staff upstairs.

“They tried various ideas to get business in. One such idea was ‘Mad Mondays in May’ - this was after decimalisation and the club decided that they would charge in pounds, shillings and pence for admission and then the drinks would be charged for in that way too.

Another idea they had was cinema night, they had a 14ft cinema screen built by John Profit. The first film they showed was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and half way through this they announced an intermission where they dressed up Paul Smith as an usherette and sold ice cream from an ice cream tray. “It was fun…it was different.”

Witton Lane Cabarets were not regular; they would have then at Xmas or on Bank Holidays. Either the staff would do acts or they would hire entertainment. The acts could be drag, magicians or hypnotists. The upstairs would seat 50 and on a busy night you could get another 70 crammed in standing.

The club continued to lose business to another club, ‘The Venus’ which was “phenomenally decadent”, and for this reason the club moved to the city centre.

90 Moving to Thorp Street

The Nightingale committee looked at Birmingham Anglers Club which was on the market for £60,000 freehold. The club had £50,000 in the bank and approached their bank, Lloyds at Five Ways, for the rest. They said ‘No’ point blank.

Graham Beardshaw, the then chairman, introduced them to the Bank of Scotland which had risk capital available. The Bank helped them out and the club changed their brewery to Scottish and Newcastle. “With £50,000 of our money, £60,000 loan from the Bank, a £30,000 give away loan from Scottish and Newcastle and a £30,000 overdraft we bought the club and fitted it out with not a penny to spare.”

“We opened in Thorp Street in 1981 with £140,000 debts - we were broke.”

Inside the club they had an internal double door that had a pane of glass in the middle. This was wired safety glass that measured four inches by six inches. This allowed them to see into the vestibule so they could vet whoever was coming into the club. After someone punched the glass through, they put a wrought iron guard over the glass. Inside the club, there was a little box to the left for the cloakroom and pay, the manager’s office was behind that. There was also a cashier and a telephone box for taxis.

The style of the club was a ‘mock village’. The ‘Pemberton Arms’ was on the left as you walked into main room, named after Derek Pemberton. Then there was the “Arthur Tuckerie”, named after Arthur Tucker the former chairman. You then went up four steps to another bar on your left which was by a sunken dance floor. There was an empty area to the right and another door that led to the second former warehouse area.”

100 “At the official opening of Thorp Street, they had invited Quentin Crisp to do the honours. He sat on a big, oval backed, wicker chair on the stage and held court and talked about his favourite subject…himself! He spoke at a barely audible level as he would not raise his voice”.

“The Members’ Committee had invited people from the Bank of Scotland, including the manager, the regional manager and his wife. They’d also invited the Licensing Justices and their wives, who knew that as it was a members club and they were not members they could not buy drinks. All of the contractors and subcontractors and their partners had also been invited. They had to sort out a lot of complementary guests. Eventually these guests started to disappear, and finally they could start having a party! There were people queuing down the street!”

110 Danny LaRue

At Christmas 1985 or 1986, Danny LaRue was performing at the Hippodrome next door and the club sent him an invite along with a bottle of champagne. It was the same treatment as any star from the theatre would have received. Danny wrote back saying that he may pop in at some point later that week. jinx realised his mistake, he had invited the whole company not simply the cast. “They arrived en block and we were inundated with superstars. Danny loved the fact that he was not being mobbed or being asked to sign autographs.”


“Patrick Scott was known as Contessa Bula and started off as a cloakroom girl, then a barman; she was a good friend.”


The Nightingale Club was a committee run club and jinx often made some unpopular decisions. He believes this was because he worked almost full time at the club and the secretary and chairman worked part time. Eventually he was voted out. As the new incumbents couldn’t gain the benefits they had assumed they would, jinx was eventually reinstated.


They began to have theme parties; the first one was a Beach Party. “We covered the dance floor in tiny polystyrene beads, parked a sailing dinghy on the side of the beach, on the stage area in the concert room they put a three hundred weight of sand and had a sand castle building competition. We turned the heating up to 25 degrees C. Everyone was in swimming costumes; we sold ice creams”.

jinx summed it up “The Nightingale is the mother of the Birmingham Gay scene.”

160 Five Days of Fun
For Five Days of Fun, local businesses all co-operated, including the Nightingale, The Windmill, The Grosvenor, The Jester and The Victoria. They all agreed to mutually promote each other. The pubs would have the business early on in the evening and the clubs would have such later on in the evening. The main theme was balloons and they filled up the club with 1500 helium filled balloons in the ceiling. On the Sunday afternoon of Five Days of Fun, they had an ‘It’s a Knockout Competition’ in the garden of the Grosvenor.
“It was the first time businesses had collaborated.”

170 The Grosvenor Hotel
The Grosvenor was out of the city, on Hagley Road, after Meadow Road. Nowadays if you go past four or five demolished buildings, the last one standing is the old Grosvenor. It had a very long beautiful lawn at the back of the hotel, with a small swimming pool, 8 foot across and 5 foot deep.

When the Grosvenor first opened, the members had keys to the front door; there was no one permanently on reception. It was only if you had to sign a guest in that you would ring the bell and someone would come down. It was a different crowd from the Nightingale, the place was more expensive.

180 The Windmill to Pit to Partners

The Windmill became a gay bar. Near there was a couple of places that were notorious. “The roof of the car park opposite was a rabid place for queens. The rent boys would hang on the steps of the car park. They could see Queensway behind them, the full length of Station Street all the way down to the Cottage. They had an easy escape onto Suffolk Street if the police came round.”

The Windmill then became The Pit. After a couple of exchanges of ownership, jinx got the chance to manage it. He asked his two friends, Brian and Martin to join him and establish ‘Partners’. “We made an agreement that if two of the three turned on the other one that the one would get 50% of the business in a pay off. I was the one and it happened eighteen months down the line not eight or nine years as we had expected.”

190 M&Ms

Stanley S Sheringham and Mark ‘Madge’ both worked at The Nightingale and later at Partners. They then got offered their own bar, The Wandering Minstrel. They opened it as ‘M and M’s’ which had a little bar downstairs and a bigger bar upstairs, and was later to become Tin Tins.

200 Legends

“Legends had some beautiful barmen; it was a happy hunting ground for me.” Jinx said that in those days “We weren’t restricted by the fear of AIDS - nowadays it is so slow…the lube…the shower.”

210 Cruising in the Bull Ring

“In the late 1960s and 70s, the scene was in the Bull Ring in the day time; there was lots of cruising in the Bullring. Men would go up and down on the escalators, you could spot a young man by his body language and eye contact. They would sit in the café, by the aviary…all the queens….on separate tables…because we were all after the same boys.”