The Culture Show

Swinging into the Blitz: A Culture Show Special

Radio Times
Review by:
Alison Graham

Clemency Burton-Hill presents a companion piece to Stephen Poliakoff’s drama Dancing on the Edge (Mondays BBC2) with a neat history of swing bands in Britain.

Poliakoff is interviewed and talks of the “excitement, rawness and sexual energy” of 1930s jazz bands just like his fictional Louis Lester Band. And we learn that London is swinging again with a resurgence of the jive and jitterbug. Swing was pioneered in Britain by charismatic bandleader Ken “Snakehips” Johnson and Leslie Thompson, a gifted musician. The two forged a partnership in a band that became the toast of London. But tragedy dimmed the brilliance when London’s celebrated Café de Paris took a direct hit during the Blitz.

About this programme

When a handful of musical immigrants from the Caribbean came to Britain in the 1920s and 30s, it was the beginning of both musical and political change. Clemency Burton-Hill investigates the stories of some of the black musicians who brought swing to the UK, including Jamaican trumpeter Leslie Thompson and bandleader Ken `Snakehips' Johnson from British Guiana.

Cast and crew


Clemency Burton-Hill


Kath Pick
Janet Lee
Series Producer
Matthew Springford