Swing’s the thing as vintage dance festival comes to Hackney’s Round Chapel

Rhythm Junction

Rhythm Junction - Credit: Archant

Over the last few years swing has been enjoying an unlikely revival. With artists like Parov Stelar bringing its music up to date through electronic fusion and TV shows like Boardwalk Empire giving prohibition-era fashion a fresh lease of life, it is even drawing in the young crowds of London with its decadent, frantic allure.

Next month, two such swing enthusiasts are hoping to capitalise on this resurgence by running an all day vintage dance festival in Hackney’s Round Chapel.

Featuring four live bands – Kai Hoffman and Kai’s Cats, The Down for the Count Swing Orchestra, The Swing Commanders and The Kings Cross Hot Club – Rhythm Junction will transport audiences back to the hot jazz of the 1920s and through to the jump jive of the 1950s, as they don their best shirts and dresses to take to the hall’s wooden dance floor.

Archway resident Amelia Forster, who is organising the event alongside Mike Paul-Smith, believes the day’s festival atmosphere will appeal as much to those who simply want to watch from the Chapel’s beautiful balcony and enjoy the atmosphere.

“There’s definitely a swing revival at the moment,” Forster adds, “and that’s what we’re tapping into.


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‘Atmosphere’

“We play a lot of events which just feel like concerts where there happens to be a dance floor, but we want to pull that kind of festival atmosphere together into an all-day thing.”

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As a member of The Down for the Count Swing Orchestra, Forster is keen to place the day’s focus on the live bands and, as a result, will make sure that each act is paid a full professional performance fee.

In the past two years particularly, she says the public has warmed to swing’s more inclusive performance style, as audiences move away from simply appreciating a star lead singer.

“There are lots of fashions in fashion, and fashions in music, but the two tend to go hand in hand. A little while ago, you had artists like Michael Bublé bringing jazz and rat pack to the main stream, and then people got a little bit fed up with that crooner style of music.

“I think audiences were looking around at the time thinking, ‘This music is great, but I’m sick of seeing these celebrity singers doing it’. Possibly they then looked to another style which was less about the main singer and more about big bands, the ensemble.”

The 27-year-old is aware of Hackney’s young demographic and notes that many of swing’s new fans tend to be twenty-something “revivalists”.

“Now more than ever, people are looking towards earlier decades. You’ve got lots of people dressed in 1920s fashion and going to various different cabaret-style bars that are popping up over London; speakeasies, even drinks are following the fashion – the old fashioned cocktails are now constantly on menus where they weren’t before.”

Time to dig out your grandad’s Benny Goodman records and get up to scratch; it seems swing is here to stay.

Rhythm Junction London is on Saturday, September 13, at Hackney’s Round Chapel. Advance tickets £30, visit rhythmjunction.co.uk.

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