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How a flagging shoe factory was saved by a thigh-high pair of stilettos

When Steve Pateman’s family shoe-making business was on the verge of collapse, his heart was in his boots. Like many Northamptonshire businesses in the early 90s, the Earls Barton-based firm W.J Brooks was struggling. Demand for its gentlemen’s brogues was flagging and company closure loomed.

 

Then a strange request came out of the blue. A lady from a fetish shoe shop in Folkestone was looking for ladies’ shoes in men’s sizes. Steve’s subsequent sudden and totally unexpected departure into erotic designs was formalised with the opening of Divine Footwear – and the launch of his famous, thigh-high boots with stiletto heels.

 

Steve’s kinky boots, reinforced with metal to support the male wearer, manufactured in a range of leather, styles and colours, soon became the factory’s flamboyant best-seller.

 

The quirky story was documented in BBC’s Trouble at the Top: The Kinky Boot Factory in February 1999. Hot on its heels came Hollywood, as film-makers spotted the tall story’s potential as the next hit Brit movie. Steve found himself acting as consultant for the production, with the Pateman family recruited for a cameo role.

 

Next stop Broadway. From its inception in 2006, the show took six years to kick off with a premier at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre in 2012, before embarking on a US tour in 2014.

 

Now renowned as a smash hit production, winning every best musical award, the stage adaptation of Kinky Boots has seen five years of success on Broadway, is into its fourth year on the West End, and is now going on a UK tour – stopping off at Blackpool Opera House for two weeks next autumn, from Monday 30th September to Saturday 12th October 2019.

 

With direction and choreography by two-time Tony award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde, Hairspray) and songs by 80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots totters from the factory floor to the glamorous catwalks of Milan, with the shoemaker’s salvation arriving in the fabulous form of drag queen Lola, who’s looking for some sturdy stilettos to perform in.

 

The cast includes Kayi Ushe as Lola, with Corrie’s Kylie Platt, Paula Lane, playing love interest Lauren, and Joel Harper-Jackson in the role of Charlie, the character inspired by Steve Pateman.

 

Sadly, the manufacture of kinky boots at Divine Footwear ceased in 2000 as cheap imports entered the market. There will be no such demise for Kinky Boots The Musical. Celebrating the discovery of unlikely friendships and how changing your mind can change the world, this is one sensational show that will sell out time after time.

 

Fill your boots and book now

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