If I had a time machine, my first port of call would be the ‘Roaring 20s’. Unrivalled glamour, high jinks, flapper girls and speakeasies make this era unforgettable. These glory days were a hotbed for trailblazing, creative
innovation : novels by Ernest Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald captured the mood; Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith introduced the jazz sound and silent movies dominated the big screen.
The ‘Jazz Age’ swung with decadent parties and prohibition had flappers and dandies drinking ‘mothers ruin’ from teacups. It all sounds – well, rather swell. That is, until the 1929 Wall Street Crash brought it all tumbling down. A hard end to a decade of marvellous excess.
No wonder that fun-seekers want to travel back in time. See the popularity of silent movie The Artist, leading this year’s BAFTA’s with 12 nominations. And for nights of decadent debauchery, 1920’s style, London has a choice pick of fabulous events in enchanting locations, packed full of cabaret acts, live jazz bands and speakeasy bars.
I went along to The Candlelight Club, which, as the name suggests, is a cabaret club lit completely by candlelight. I take a fellow 1920’s time-traveller and we dress to the nines in furs and pearls all the way (fake fur of course!) ready to burn the candle at both ends.At the bar we try the ‘Gold, Frankincense and Byrrh’ cocktail ( we went at Christmas ) which is as precious as it sounds. It’s rather tasty and ridiculously strong.
Then we settle at a table to people watch. It takes a while to get going (or for the cocktails to kick in). The place starts to fill up. Christmas parties mean there’s lots of groups and a splattering of couples, as well as the odd pairing of over-dressed females – like us. Everyone has made maximum effort and there’s a sea of feathered headdresses and satin evening gloves. The men – well the men look extremely dapper. There is nothing quite like a gentleman in a cravat. “Oh the good old days. It’s not like it used to be,” I hear myself saying.
The ragtime band begin to play. Albert Ball’s Flying Aces are a motley crew supposedly made up of ex-Royal Flying Corps Pilots, although none of them look old enough to hold a pilot’s licence! They are, however, completely dressed the part and the singer has the 20s crooning style down to a tee. It gets even better when he adds spoon playing to the mix.
During an interval in the music, Josephine Shaker, an energetic tap dancer works her magic on the audience, with a high-energy, crowd pleasing routine. The place goes wild with claps and whoops. The atmosphere is electric as the strong liqueur takes affect.
Our mannerisms begin to change. We talk and dance in the affected way one used to in the good old days. Well obviously I’m just assuming that, as I wasn’t actually on the planet before 1979, but I’ve seen a lot of old films. There’s no cheeky Saturday nightclub bum pinching behaviour or obstinate swearing here. It’s all terribly well behaved.
For me, that’s what going back to the 1920s is all about; the glamorous experience but without the bad bits, like rationing and ‘American Tan’ stockings.
We find some well turned out dandies and the dancing begins. A little Charleston with no skill or expertise, but bags of enthusiasm. That, we agreed: “was a jolly good show”.
The Candlelight Club (secret location) Next Event: Friday 20th and Saturday 21st January, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th February
Other 1920’s Nights in London:
Prohibition 1920s Parties (secret location) Next event: date to be confirmed.
This is the nearest you’ll get to a real prohibition experience. A large-scale party in the heart of East London (although you won’t know exactly where until a few days before the event)
Bourne & Hollingsworth 28, Rathbone Place, W1T 1JF
This little basement gem in the heart of Fitzrovia has the perfect 1920s chintz style, with floral wallpaper and lampshades with the cocktails served in tea-cups
The Arts Theatre Club 50 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 5SQ
The decor is completely original 1920s and cocktails are served out of flowery teapots. A delectable dive – the music keeps swinging until 2.00 am. Okay – it is 80’s and 90’s pop of the finest sort, but look around you and you could be back in 1922
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