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What’s In A Photo?

Trad Jazz at The Old Women’s Institute Hall

Philip Yaxley Published: 28 August 2022

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Social gathering

Wymondham young trad (traditional) jazz fans had a great time at the old Women’s Institute Hall on Norwich Road in September 1960 when the popular Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen were entertaining. Along with the likes of Acker Bilk and Chris Barber, Ball was at the forefront of the country’s jazz revival in the early 1960s.

Two men and a woman with musical instruments

Many older Wymondham folk will recognize those in the main picture, which has been sent to me by Mike Lister, who came from the town but had a career in the navy and now lives near Portsmouth. From left to right they are Bronco Wilson, Mike Whitlam, David Poll, Mike Lister sporting dark glasses, Ann Osborne (later Mike’s wife), unknown, David Macro and Billy Goffin. Another picture sent to me by ex- Wymondhamite Doug Fulcher, who now lives in Norwich, shows trumpet player Kenny Ball with his arm round local girl Jill Beck, who was elected Miss Wymondham in a beauty contest in 1962.

Women's Institute hall

John Knights took over the Cross Keys pub in 1958 and went on to promote Friday evening jazz dances at the old WI Hall on Norwich Road, the front of which can be seen in another photo, while in February 1961 the Wymondham and Attleborough Jazz Club was formed and met at Attleborough's London Tavern. At its height it boasted 800 members. In May 1961 the club helped to stage an all-nighter at the WI Hall with four bands taking turns on the stage. It finished at 7.30am the next day and caused a furore among some residents of Norwich Road. It was the talk of the town, and I could have written a book on it!

Norwich Road, Wymondham

In September 1965 the Wi Hall closed and was subsequently demolished for housing, being replaced by the Central Hall, which opened in December the same year. Like other jazz bands at the time Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen enjoyed success in the charts, but as an enduring pop form trad could not compete with rock ‘n’ roll – but for a short period jazz fans always had a ball at the WI Hall!

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