Sunday, February 18, 2007

From Hangars to Warehouses

When was the warehouse party born, that is a party in an industrial space rather than a specially designed dancehall or ballroom? One candidate must be aircraft hangars and similar spaces in World War Two, as swing grew in popularity. US servicemen paid a prominent role in spreading the popularity of this music and related dance styles.

Margaret Townsend has recalled her time in World War Two: 'When I was 16 living in Cheltenham working as a trainee tracer in Gloucester Aircraft Company Brockworth. We used to go to the Queens Hotel in Cheltenham to be bussed to the hangars at Tewkesbury where we used to go dancing with the American G I's on a Sunday night. Very often we went home minus a few girls, soon they stopped that and a head count was taken before we left for home partly'.

An RAF serviceman remembers: 'A smoke-hazed aeroplane hangar somewhere in England, the floor crowded to capacity with uniformed boys and girls swaying gently or jiving wildly according to the dictates of that essential commodity, the dance band... The dance was on and all we were conscious of was the music (and what music it was) the exhilarating rhythm and of course, the girl in our arms' (quoted in John Costello, Love, sex and war - changing values, 1939-45, London: Collins, 1985, p.110).

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