A meeting with Loz Samuels, the arts officer for Wyre Forest about a music heritage trail inspired a project that has connected over one hundred and fifty people from Kidderminster in its creation. Loz was putting a music trail together and a conversation about Frank Freeman began. She’d heard about the dancing club that Frank and Wynn ran and that in the late 1960s became one of the country’s most exciting underground venues for live music. Bands such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, Captain Beefheart, The Who, The Strawbs came to Kidderminster to play at Frank’s Club. The Rolling Stones even came to play in the town and Robert Plant was a frequent attender.
But once I started talking to people about Frank and Wynn Freeman a story that spanned five decades emerged and one that inspired thousands of people to connect with their creativity on many levels.
People in their nineties began dancing again as they recounted their tales of Frank and Wynn teaching a town to dance after the war and getting them moving again. It was a place to escape strict parents as teenagers burst onto the rock and roll scene. Many people found their partners at Franks and world champion ballroom dancers including Len Goodman and Victor Silvester came to demonstrate and judge the local dancing talent. Lives were changed as the dancing club provided inspiration for careers in music and confidence to pursue dreams.
It was a place where all of the community could go, young and old, and it was accessible to all. Not only because it didn’t cost a lot but because Frank and Wynn kept their doors open to everyone and kept reinventing themselves through different dance genres.
But what’s the point in telling a story about a dance club in Kidderminster today? The process of listening to all of the stories holds a mirror to the present. Where can people go today as a community and connect with their creativity? Who are the people who provide a space to do this? What about the towns and places that don’t have lots of provisions for the arts? Where can they connect with others to explore their potential and in an accessible environment? These stories came from a room above a butcher’s shop.
Ballroom dancing attracts millions of viewers every week, young and old as we watch the stories of the dancers in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. We see how dance and coming together to try something new not only improves the dancing skills of the participants but gives us hope that we can all achieve things if we have a space to explore.
As we take the production to other towns we’re going to try to find the Frank and Wynn of today and capture some of the untold stories of now.
If you have a story to tell about a dance club or a community space please tell us about it.
Caroline Jester - Writer / Director