Home Television Comedy 291 Club, The

291 Club, The

1 9 9 1 – 1 9 9 3 (UK)
14 x 60 minute episodes

This black talent contest – a clone of the talent shows held at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York – was produced by LWT for ITV and filmed in front of a live audience at the Hackney Empire. The show became an institution for young black people in London.

Presenter Miles Crawford came across like a demented Trevor McDonald, often coming on stage in a red lycra superhero costume, he set the tone for the rest of the show with the kind of energy you could plug into the national grid.

Tony Gulley began as the stage manager and after he started walking on stage to lead the performers who got booed offstage, his act developed into a regular part of the show – until he was rapping, telling jokes and running a quiz – always dressed in different costumes.

The majority of the hopefuls competing for a trip to take part in the American competition at the Apollo were in for a ruthless reception from the hard to please and vociferously vocal audience. Even the compere for the night, DJ Elayne, found herself booed and she wasn’t even performing!

On the rare occasions when a performer earned the respect of the crowd, though, the audience was even more vocal in showing their approval. What the crowd liked best was young female singers with good powerful voices, high notes, and vocal pyrotechnics.

While the show trotted out three celebrity judges to comment on the week’s contestants, it was the audience that had the ultimate say, dictating who went through to subsequent stages of the competition.

Miles Crawford
DJ Elayne
Tony Gulley