THE refurbishment of an iconic town centre venue took a major step forward this week when windows bricked-up decades ago were reopened.

The Joanne Banks Dancers, currently based in Middlestone Moor, bought the former Top Hat, on High Street, Spennymoor in March.

Builders began transforming the once thriving nightclub into a ‘family friendly’ venue with dance studios, a cafe and shop in the summer.


And on Tuesday, work to reinstate eight large first floor windows got underway– letting daylight in upstairs for the first time since the 1960s.

The honour of swinging a mallet to break through fell to Ken Banks, dad of the dance school’s founder and managing director Joanne Banks.

Mrs Banks asked him and mam Chris to do the honours as they have been a huge support to her from when she was a child dancer to teaching her first lessons in the area 28 years ago.

She said: “The Joanne Banks Dancers are very proud of their roots in Spennymoor and are delighted to be able to bring this once glorious music venue back to life and into the heart of the community.

“The opening up of the windows is a monumental moment not just for the Joanne Banks Dancers but for Spennymoor, letting in light on a new beginning.”

The plans for the building include creating three new dance studios upstairs, one of which will replicate Darlington Hippodrome’s stage to hold show rehearsals, performances and exams.


Chris Banks said: “The building is about 100 years old and used to be the Co-op store before it was the club.

“Lots of people came when it was a popular nightclub, some of our young dancers’ parents and grandparents say they haven’t been in in decades or that they met their wife here.

“We were keen to retain its name so it will be called The Top Hat Studios and some features like metallic lettering and lighting will be kept. It is all being sensitively refurbished by Andrew Gregg of CLM Building Services Ltd from Newton Aycliffe.”

Members are currently rehearsing for the Hippodrome’s panto Aladdin and some of the hundreds who have attended over the years went on to teach or perform.