Jitterbug Ball
Sat. 1st June 2002

article by
Silke Klein


For all of you who feel that you’re missing out on good 40‘s do’s here in Germany, it’s definitely time that you got yourself off to the Jitterbug Ball in London. This year was the 9th time this exclusive event has taken place. Myself and lots of of other international swing fans from USA, Italy, Norway, Denmark, France, Switzerland and of course England, all found their way to this „the most talked-about 1940‘s dance in the UK“.  A fabulous event that every 30‘s and 40‘s fan would thoroughly enjoy.

Prior to the main event, a “Pre-Ball Celebration Dinner” took place. I however, did not partake, but observed from outside whilst enjoying the sounds of Sophie Garner singing to piano accompaniment. We queued up with a few hundred others in front of the hall (very correct and polite in single file) and waited patiently for the doors to open – which wasn’t so terrible considering the beautiful summer weather and the fun and friendly atmosphere. 

The Hammersmith town hall has a lovely 1930‘s Art-Deco ballroom with a huge wooden dance floor which, due to the great sounds of  the OPUS ONE BIG BAND, THE BIG HEAT and  DJ,  ROBIN‘S BAKELITE BOOGIE, was constantly bulging with dancers. 

The OPUS ONE BIG BAND began at 8.30 p.m. sharp and played in Glen Miller style many well-known songs from the big band era.  22 men and 3 women in original WW2 uniforms gave a very authentic feeling to the whole thing. The music was a little slow for my own taste - but let’s not forget that  the pensioners should also have something to dance to !  Robin then let the music blast with “hot” sounds of the 40‘s - swing, jump and rhythm and blues-  really bringing some life into the evening and creating a fabulous atmosphere with good spirit and great dancing.


The programme then continued with THE BIG HEAT from Sheffield. A new, really solid, 9 man combo, concentrating on 40‘s and  50‘s jump and R&B. Each song was danceable and at last we could all have a stroll. 

The big band and DJ played again later in the evening. And of course the raffle must also not be forgotten - you could win an excursion in a 1940‘s steam train or a flight with a 1940‘s Dakota.

At around 11.45 p.m. the little British flags started to wave and together with the big band war-time songs were sung ( Songsheet ). I personally found this part a bit  of an atmosphere killer - I would have much rather carried on dancing – but it seems that such an event is just not complete without a „sing-a-long“ which I can only say seems to be „Very British“ but I have to admit it was also good fun.

weiter Fotos ...
... more photos here ...

Between dances you could get yourself togged up in original 40‘s gear from Mickey and Debbie’s clothes stall, or take advantage of the talents of top photographer Mr. Gordon Ayres and get photographed in authentic black and white 1940‘s glamour style. Waiting at the bar to be served seemed to last for ages – but of course the „good housewife“ always has a little something in her hand bag for such occasions...

Unfortunately this evening passed by far too quickly and, at exactly 1.00 am, the evening ended with a rendition of „God save the King“. That the event ended so early was my one and only criticism of the whole evening – typical for England – but by then my feet were getting pretty sore and worn-out (tip from me - make sure that you bring really comfortable footwear – in London you’re always on your feet!).
A big compliment to the organisers of this event – Robin & Colette. We’ve been to the Jitterbug ball several times and it’s always been great fun. I’d go again every time. Maybe next year a few more international guests could make their way to London? The Jitterbug Ball usually takes place on  the first weekend in June. Tickets must be purchased in advance. You can find more info at  www.jitterbugball.com .
By happy coincidence, on this particular weekend there was a huge crowd in London because of the Queen’s Jubilee. On every corner there was some sort of patriotic event or party going on.
In London there is simply so much to see and so many places to visit – and there’s always a 40’s swing dance going on somewhere in the vicinity.

Below some useful addresses for swing events in London and surrounding area:


Maybe I’ll see you there somewhere, sometime. Who knows....
(next Jitterbug Ball: Sat. 7th June 2003)

Keep on swingin' 
Silke Klein
Arnsberg / Germany