The Easthope Music and Movement Festival

My aunty belonged to a woman’s music and movement exercise class in the 1950’s, and I used this as inspiration for a scene in my 1950’s story.

Mike Scott the main character, is a reporter on the Easthope Bugle and he has been sent by the editor to cove the local music and movement festival. He has arranged to meet Mrs Goode who is the mainstay of the Easthope group. As he interviews her, his mind wanders to a mysterious Canadian woman he’s me who he keeps calling Norma, even though her name is Nora. He wonders if his friend might be interested in her…

Why was it that only women over fifty seemed to have any interest whatsoever in him, Mike wondered gloomily as he peddled along. He was rather full of tea and cake, the old dears had piled slice onto slice of his plate as he tried to interview them, glancing across at the gaggles of rather lovely young women who had been the more interesting part of the afternoon.
He’d had no idea, but this exercise to music meant women of all ages, from the rather young and lovely, to scrawny old birds  – and all shapes and sizes, wearing a sleeveless white shirt, very short green shorts, and ankle socks and plimsolls, had performed stylised and choreographed movements to music. Sometimes they held large beach balls (of various colours and sizes) which the fearsome Miss Goode was fearsomely annoyed by, which they used to aid stretching, and sometimes they used hoops. It was all done to the thundering accompaniment of the piano played with grim determination by a small lady who must have bought her glasses at the same place as Mrs Boffin at the steam laundry… in fact she could be a near relative of Mrs Boffin, grim of face and rigidly permed…
There were ladies groups from all around the area participating, and apparently this exercise was very popular, music and movement, Miss Goode explained. Mike almost timidly mentioned dancing, but no dancing was not the correct sort of exercise, and it involved men!  My ladies would not like to be exercising with men! Miss Goode told him disapprovingly. Moreover this exercise was for all parts of the body, not just the lower limbs, and with a gramophone, anyone could practice at home – alone or with their friends.
Mike asked if he may talk to the ladies themselves and was introduced to a bunch of dinosaurs. The young women were pulling skirts and trousers on over their shorts, and sweaters over their shirts. Some of them were very attractive, and he surreptitiously watched one particularly gorgeous woman, rather like Jane Russell he thought, applying lipstick.
“This exercise keeps me young! I’m seventy-six young man, and look!” the wrinkly person he was talking to touched the floor with the palms of her hands, her legs still straight, performed a couple of cartwheels and then rather alarmingly performed the splits.
Mike politely asked if she would allow a photo on that position, he hardly finished the question when the old lady called ‘come along girls! ‘ – and four of the other old gals he was talking to arranged themselves in a semi-circle and  with a flourish posed for him, all doing perfect splits.
“We’re nearly four centuries old between us!” one chirped and they all cackled and lifted their arms and held hands. It was a great photo, and admirable, but it would have been better with Jane Russell and her friends… more interesting…
He asked if he could speak to some of the other young ladies, but oh no, they were all busy and had to dash off to get tea ready for the children, and dinner ready for their hubbies. Well they didn’t look in much of a rush to Mike, they were all in groups gassing away.
Jane Russell glanced at him and he smiled engagingly, but she looked alarmed and turned back to her group, and they glanced across her shoulders at him… oh well… Maybe Norma would like to join the class. He wondered what Norma did, she was adroitly mysterious and had deflected any question about herself in such a neat way that it was only afterwards that Mike realised he knew nothing about her.
Perhaps he should introduce her to Adam; his friend’s feelings for Nancy would never come to anything, Nancy wasn’t interested in him – which Mike found mystifying. His friend had everything, good looks, charm, and he was a decent bloke…
“I’m sorry, Miss Goode, what were you saying?”
She was giving him a potted history of women’s music and movement in Easthope and in the country, which went back to before the war… Extraordinary, he wrote his notes almost automatically between bites of the slices of various cakes and scones piled on a plate. The old ladies were tucking in as if they hadn’t been fed for months, and they were so scraggy maybe they hadn’t. … the younger women were drifting away now, Jane Russell giving him a hard stare… oh well… that was his life.
At last, with several pieces of cake and a whole apple pie wrapped in greaseproof paper and a tea towel which he promised to return, he had left the hall, stowed his spoils in his saddle bag taking extra care to fasten the buckles and set off for the old windmill.


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