Author MEL WRIGHT takes a closer look at the iconic past of The Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley.

OPPOSITE Crofton Park railway station, leaving behind the bustle of Brockley Road, entering The Rivoli is a stunning experience.

The doors open up to reveal the ballroom's glittering chandeliers, ornate fittings, long sweeping dancefloor and plush scarlet and gilt Viennese-style decor.

The Rivoli started out as as the Crofton Park Picture Palace in July 1913.

It showed silent films until the arrival of "talkies" in the late 1920s.

It became a ballroom in 1957 and like many had its heyday in the 60s and 70s, when it featured performances by acts such as Acker Bilk and Pans People.

Many of its regular members are still coming back to the ballroom's popular social dancing events where they met their partners some 40 years ago.

The ballroom has provided a rich social backdrop for many romances, marriages and anniversaries.

Bill and Jean Mannix, who have run the ballroom for more than 20 years, pay tribute to their regular members.

Bill said: "They create the welcoming atmosphere, companionship and respect. It makes it all worthwhile."

Although the BBC television series Strictly Come Dancing may have raised the nation's interest in ballroom, for some the fancy dance steps are too much.

Dancing at The Rivoli is more free and easy.

Everyone feels relaxed about getting up on the dancefloor.

But there is certainly no shortage of great dancers.

The regular theme nights and Jive Party events testify to seeing elegant dancing and some great hip-swivelling moves.

Over the years, the Rivoli has become a location for film makers, pop videos and television advertisements.

In the 1980s, pop diva Tina Turner filmed the video for her hit Private Dancer at The Rivoli.

The song was written by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, from Deptford.

Other pop luminaries of the time who filmed at The Rivoli include Elton John (They Call It The Blues) Tracey Ullman (Move Over Darling) and the Beautiful South (I Sail My Ship Alone).

Paul McCartney also shot scenes from his film, Give My Regards To Broad Street, at the ballroom.

Hollywood stars have also filmed at The Rivoli. Kevin Spacey shot parts of Beyond The Sea there and it was seen in the spy thriller Dark Horizons, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

Robert Lindsay's sleuth thriller TV serial Jerricho transformed The Rivoli into a Soho ballroom and bar.

A number of celebrities have used the venue for photo shoots.

The list of guests includes S Club 7, Oasis, Charlotte Church, Kylie Minogue, Vinnie Jones, Westlife and model Rachel Hunter.

  • Mel Wright is author of Rock Around Lewisham. Visit the website