Swinging into the Blitz: A Culture Show Special


The BBC has just screened a documentary, Swinging into the Blitz, directed by Kath Pick for BBC Scotland, and presented by Clemency Burton-Hill. The Telegraph has reviewed it

It is a kind of factual background around/ counterweight to/ explanation of / plug for/ the drama series Dancing on the Edge. It looks at the careers of Leslie Thompson (1901-1987) and Ken Snakehips Johnson (1914-1941)

There are interviews with:

Musicians, singers, and an actor with connections to or affinities with the period:

Soweto Kinch, who talks about their importance as role models, and performs.

Elaine Delmar, daughter of Leslie Jiver Hutchinson

= Frank Holder

Earl Cameron


Catherine Tackley

Stephen Bourne (interesting on Snakehips’ visit to NY in 1934 and his meeting with Fletcher Henderson)

Jeffrey Green

Andy Simons of the British Library


 – Stephen Poliakoff – his closing line is curious in the extreme: “these black performers – it’s very important that we reclaim them”

Michelle Karaivanov 

There is a band, filmed performing music of the era at the Cafe de Paris (Johnson was one of 34 victimsof a bomb which hit that venue on 8th March 1941, he was just 26).

The band is: Jay Phelps, Robert Mitchell, Nathaniel Facey, Soweto Kinch, Richard Henry, Karl Rasheed Abel, Shane Forbes. Actor Jonathan Kehinde Adegbenro, as Johnson, fronts the band. There are no music or script credits (Anyone?)

Here’s the PR blurb: When a handful of musical immigrants from the Caribbean islands came to Britain in the 1920s and 30s, it was the beginning of both musical and political change. Leslie Thompson, an innovative musician and trumpeter, and Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson, a brilliant dancer and charismatic band leader, pooled their talents to start the first black British swing band. Clemency Burton-Hill reveals the untold story of the black British swing musicians of the 1930s, whose meteoric rise to fame on London’s high society dance floors was cut short by unexpected tragedy at the height of the Blitz.

Soweto Kinch is at Ronnie Scott’s on Feb 25 and 36 and his new CD The Legend of Mike Smith is jut released. Elaine Delmar is at the Crazy Coqs from Tuesday 19th February. 

Categories: miscellaneous

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