Ivan Birchall

Some time ago I had the idea of including some pages on Ready Steady Gone about non-musicians who were part of the sixties north east music scene; managers, promoters, agents, studio owners etc. While I was doing some research on the internet regarding these people I found out that one of the top Newcastle booking agents of the late sixties and early seventies died on 21st June 2009. The agent in question was Ivan Birchall who ran the Birchall Entertainment Agency.

Anyone who was in a band at that time would have either known or heard of Ivan. He had most of the top local Tyneside and Wearside bands of that period on his books and also the best local venues.

Ivan Birchall (2nd left) in the 80s at the Annual General Meeting of the Entertainment Agents Association

Ivan Edwin Birchall was born on 5 May 1943 near Wigan. He grew up in the north west and on leaving school went to work for Pilkington Brothers the glass manufacturers in St Helens. He became involved in the entertainments industry when he went to work for the Rank Organisation in Scotland. He subsequently moved to Newcastle where he was the manager of the Majestic Ballroom. He worked with the booking agent Jack Wright in Newcastle for a while and then around 1967 started his own business, the Birchall Entertainments Agency. Ivan’s agency in the late sixties and early seventies was situated in a small office suite in Newcastle’s Cloth Market. Ivan ran the business personally with the aid of a secretary/girl Friday called Susan. (Susan was subsequently replaced by Janice in 1970). Ivan provided lots of gigs for popular bands on his books (the ‘A’ list) such as the Sect, the Elcort, Pleasure Machine and Mr Poobah’s Chicago Line at places like the Mayfair and the Rex Hotel at Whitley Bay. He also had plenty of work for up and coming bands (the ‘B’ list) that still had to make a name. He used his top bands as a bargaining tool to get venues to accept bands from the ‘B’ list. Apparently his A list bands paid a 15% commission whereas those on the B list paid a 10% commission.

Contract used by the Birchall Agency in the 60’s

In 1967 there was a big shake-up of the groups that were on Ivan’s ‘A’ list with a lot of personnel changes, in particular involving the Sect and Elcort. At the time this became known as ‘Ivan Birchall’s Great Group Reshuffle’ and was advertised as such in the local press.

Advert in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle in April 1967

Band members in other local bands, including myself, wondered what was going on. Was Ivan preparing an elite handful of bands that he could promote and perhaps get rid of some of the dead wood on his books? I actually found out not too long ago from Brian Short, former member of the Sect that the ‘Great’ reshuffle had nothing to do with Ivan. This is what Brian said: –

“The Great Ivan Birchall Group Reshuffle which is often mentioned, was genuinely nothing to do with him, but merely happened as a result of me leaving the Sect, and forming a new band with Ken Craddock and Paul Nichols, called the New Religion. The bass player of New Religion was Jimmy (can’t remember surname), a local lad, who was in another of Birchall’s bands (forgive me as I can’t remember their name) and a guitarist from London called Don. Glyn Sadler then joined the Sect, and I believe his band the Elcort, broke up shortly afterwards. I think that because the Elcort and the Sect were his biggest clients at that time, some of the other bands in Ivan’s agency were encouraged to follow suit and make changes. This was the backdrop to Ivan’s agency and the reason for the group re-shuffle.”

Publicity photo for the Village bearing details of the Birchall Entertainmnet Agency
Publicity photo for the Village bearing details of the Birchall Entertainmnet Agency

Ivan was an easy person to do business with and always gave the impression that he was doing the best he could for your band. In his later years Ivan became General Secretary of The Agents’ Association of Great Britain and also Treasurer of The European Federation of Performing Arts. He lived mainly in the Champagne area of France in the small city of Sezanne, which is about an hour’s drive east of Paris. He’ll be fondly remembered by the musicians from the sixties and seventies who know the contribution Ivan Birchall made to the north east music scene of that era.

7 thoughts on “Ivan Birchall

  1. 0

    Ivan was a real gent in every respect: looked the part and acted the part. His wife June was the matching Lady. Ivan cooked us Sunday lunch one time and roasted the beef in Brown Ale; this was back in the ’70s and was a real revelation to us young thugs.
    I heard from someone, significantly older than me, that Ivan had also worked, albeit briefly I suspect, at The Go-go; anyone remember this? I was too young.
    His office doorway was actually on Drury Lane, which runs down from the Cloth Market to what had been the first Theatre Royal, before Grainger pulled it down barely years after it was built.
    I seem to remember Ivan bumped up the commission from 10 to 12%, – I couldn’t swear to this; it might have been 15 – when he created his A List in 1970.
    Where are Susan and Janice now, one wonders?


  2. 0

    Dear Keith,
    Have just read with great interest the above piece regarding Ivan Birchall.
    I knew Ivan through his wife Jill, who was my school friend, and later our bridesmaid.
    So, unless Ivan re married after her death, her name was Jill.
    After Jill’s death we lost touch with Ivan, although we know he went to the Champagne area of France, he mentioned Troyes when we last spoke.
    We have often wondered what had happened to him so were saddened to read about his death.
    Jean Harper


  3. 0

    Hello Keith. My name is Ron Smith. I worked for Ivan in a group named Carousel in the early 70s. I played rhythm guitar and harmony vocals. I always found him a true gentleman. We worked some great venues for him. But our claim to fame was our name being on a poster on the wall in the film Get Carter. It was at the Oxford Galleries in Newcastle. When Micheal Caine chases someone into the toilets. The forthcoming entertainment is on the wall as he pushes every door open. Ha ha. Ivan also had keep music live stickers printed. I remember having them all over our van. Out of 5 of us, there’s only me and Brian our lead guitarist left. I’m 75 years old now but I have some great memories of the days. Nice to share some to you. Ron smith.


  4. 0

    Hello. My name is Anne Allen, nee Birchall. This has been so lovely to read about my Uncle Ivan’s life. I didn’t know him that well, but feel that bit closer from reading all of your posts. Thank you for publishing your blog.


  5. 0

    Hi. I stumbled across this page after looking for the house I stayed at during 2004-2006, ‘Brightside’.
    I was working for Granada Media on city road and lodged at Ivan’s house along with a few others. He used to spend his time between Newcastle and France, and I remember him fondly as he was quite a character.
    It’s nice to hear about his early life, so thanks for posting.

    All the best

    Interestingly his companies house entry is still present:


  6. 0

    We moved into ‘Ingleside’ Jesmond, next door to Ivan in 2007. He was a proper gent, and, although he hinted at some of the more, how shall we say: lively activities of those on the shady side of the business, he diplomatically did not name names. As a young attender at the Club-a-gogo myself I was fascinated to find Ivan as our neighbour. Dave/Kari Lawson


  7. 0

    When I was an up and coming DJ in the early ’70’s, Ivan was my agent. We were never short of gigs.


Leave a Reply