All Nighter At The Astoria



I finished this over Christmas 2011. Itís set in the 1960s in a dance hall. My mum and dad met at ďa danceĒ in a hall above the Co-op on 18th May 1957 (18 and 13 years old Ė she was still at school!). Iíve attached photos showing how a chance meeting in a dance hall lead to marriage then me and my sister (then grandchildren.)

In those days men wore suits and Bryl-cream hair and women wore pretty frocks and refinery. Iíve asked my dad what these days were like and he said most dances were hosted by two bands, one at each end of the dance hall. As one number drew to a close the other band started and though they were respectful of one another there was a competitive edge. As the bands played the final numbers clinging couples would dwell in that heady hinterland where waves of sleep crashed over strains of music. At an all-nighter they didnít know if theyíre dreaming or awake, stood up or lying down, its Saturday night or Sunday first light.

I remember reading the autobiography of a safe-breaker who had broken into the back of a dance hall in the 1960's. Somehow he had crawled into a space beneath the stage. He peered through a crack in the stage and was enraptured by the sight before him: men in gray-flannel suits and women under bee-hive hair styles just clinging to one another, barely standing, smoking, laying their heads on the others shoulders. Inches above his head the band played the strains of slow jazz. He watched transfixed until he spotted dawn rising through windows at the top of the hall.

As you can see I painted in the coupleís heads but once I got going I realised the manís should be resting on the ladyís shoulder. I quickly corrected it. I did this painting over Christmas and dabbed in a few trimmings up at high level. As no-one wants to be reminded of Christmas until the period itself I avoided making them festive decorations.

Though the ladyís face was going to be the main focus of I wasnít sure how to paint it. I daubed in the usual fleshy shapes and just started dabbing in a few colours to goad myself on. I realised these haphazard blobs of yellow and pink were okay and just left them. Dab and squint, dab and squint, there was lot of that going on. I thought the dance hallís lights would cast a myriad of reds, blues and yellows and tried to catch these in the womanís hair.

As you can see there was a light or something on the right hand side. I wasnít sure what it was so I scratched it out and put in another coloured neon light.

I fancied this was the kind of women who had a nifty gold bracelet but it progressed into a wrist watch in the end.