The Dancing Club blog - August 2016

Posted on:Aug 15, 2016

Freemans Sign

 

As I’ve met with many people over the last two months and had the privilege of sharing their memories of Frank Freeman’s Dancing Club, Frank and Wynn have started to come to life in my mind.  I’ve met members 3 and 4 on the first dance register as Frank and Wynn introduced the town to their dancing steps, and heard stories of Frank dancing on the doorsteps of local residents when he still had a day job collecting insurance premiums. As the town recovered from war Frank’s father was drumming up business for his son’s new dancing school. Frank returned from the war married to Wynn, a partnership that would bring generations together through their love of dancing and music.

 

And it’s this intergenerational connection that has inspired me. At a time when we’re inundated with news stories that talk of the baby boomers being out of touch with the younger generation and fragmented communities on many levels, The Dancing Club is important to revisit.

 

Frank seems to have been an ageless man. When I ask people who knew him at the height of the music scene in the late 1960s they say he was in his late 70s, but that can’t be true because when he was teaching me to dance in the 1980s he was in his late 60s. Their faces light up when they talk about him and some say they owe it all to him. There is a respect for the man who transcended generational barriers. He didn’t impose his era and love of ballroom dancing on younger generations but must have been avidly watching what inspired younger people. He opened his dancing doors to John Peel bringing bands to the town that resulted in people sitting crossed legged on the floor, not sliding over the dance floor as he threw pieces of wax down.

 

And then there was Wynn. Faces change when I ask them about her. A matriarch who would greet the likes of Marc Bolan and Captain Beefheart with cucumber sandwiches with the crusts off. She was a partner in this business, and there was no trouble to be found in her club. Well you wouldn’t dare, would you…she’d give you a slap too if you got the dance steps wrong.

 

As I begin to write the script I’m questioning whether it was the people or the venue that made this such a special place in the hearts of the town’s residents. We’ve been granted special access to go back there for the reading of this play at KAF. La Brasserie has kindly supported this venture and we’ll go inside for a day and see if Frank and Wynn can still be heard in their old Dancing Club. What would they think about Kidderminster today? How would they connect generations? Can they see the blue plaque that is placed over the arched door that changed so many people’s lives as they went through it? Well I’m going to spend the next month trying to get inside those doors again and see what stories emerge from the many voices that are still talking about Frank and Wynn today. But this can’t be a retrospective piece because that would be going against the very heart of Frank and Wynn Freeman. How would Frank have connected with a digital generation? I’m sure he’d have found a way to unite the community. It was more than a room above a butcher’s shop. Magic happened there and magic has a way of resurfacing when it’s needed.

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