Friday, 19 July 2013

Nobody Dances Any More

I went to Hartlepool Art Gallery  for a writing  Workshop and  was inspired by the  sensitive video installation by artist Neil Armstrong - a detailed  tribute to the iconic Rink Ballroom in Hartlepool which attracted thousands in its time. The installation features  images and interviews with dancers and Hartlepool people - a wonderfully poignant evocation of a time and a place which will strike a chord with anyone who recognises the importance of the 1950s and 1960s as an historic sea change in British popular culture, whether or not they come from Hartlepool.

Here below is something I wrote in the gallery cafe in  response to this strong inspiration.

Join  me at my workshop next Wednesday 24th July  at 6 o'clock at Hartlepool Art Gallery and be equally inspired - to write or just reflect on a significant time in our history.

Nobody Dances Any More

The Benny Nelson Orchestra at the Rink. C 

Nobody Dances Any More

You going to the dance tonight?
Yes. See you there then
More couples in this town
met there at the Rink
than anywhere here

People with white hair are planted
in a circle of padded chairs
smiling, gesturing the hand jive
rhythm embedded in their brittle bones
Remembering the Rink

White swans, black swans swim
on the pool in the park. On the beach
white Punch wallops black Judy against
chemical towers on the skyline
Remembering the Rink

My dad was a panel-beater on ships
- that not a good thing
-  asbestos was a curse and
it was not an easy time 
Remembering the Rink

Long views of Hartlepool, beneath the
blue sky, against the grey sea, the long beach
I’d just started work at ICI.  I got
one pound a week pocket money
Remember the Rink

Now the space is bald and vacant
once a glittering palace of dance
We shuffled through the crash barriers
Bouncers at the door
Remember the Rink

Benny Nelson and his men 
made me want to shout, shout
as we danced  round our handbags
bopping in black and white
Remembering the Rink

My Dad sailed on ships
then in the war transported stuff
in convoys to Russia -
never talked about it after
Even at the Rink

Nobody dances any more
except when sitting in a cosy circle
gesturing the hand jive -
shades of their former selves
glitter in their eyes
Remembering the Rink

'...they did play at The Rink and the same 'Rink' jackets as the photograph just above from Paul Flush. It's the same line up here with Paul, Johnny Blackham, Pete Trundley, Terry Metcalfe, Russ Nicholson (of Russ and The Nickels fame) and Al Flush.'

Great info about dancing in th 60s and 70s in the North East at


  1. A beautiful piece - I love the title - wonderful, resonant, imagery and memorable lines. The writing is as poignant and evocative as the installation itself and will sit perfectly alongside it.
    Only wish I could be at Wednesday's workshop it promises to be a rare treat

  2. Nice. I liked this when you read it out yesterday and it gets better with rereading. Thank you for your time and insightful comments at Wednesday's workshop in Hartlepool. Best wishes.

  3. Thank you Avril for your kind words. I missed your insightful company at the workshop.

    Pleased you liked this on second reading, Jack. I was taken by your reference to your 'paradigm shift'. I feel that some excellent writing will emerge from that workshop. Your new way of working could generate an exciting novel - or series of novels - in the noir mode. From your website you have great first hand material on which to base your fiction. Good luck with it, w



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