With a line-up of some of the world’s best swing performers from Big Jay McNeely to Ray Collin’s Hot Club and The Collins Kids, amazing DJs, a range of vintage shops – not to mention the international flea market – plus a vintage car cruise, hair parlour, tattooist and vintage photographers on hand, Rhythm Riot is easily the best Fifties weekend in Europe. Over 3000 vintage, swing and Fifties lovers from as far as Japan and the US gathered in Camber Sands (Sussex) last weekend to have fun and celebrate their favourite era.

carsdarkEach year, for three days in November, Pontins Holiday Centre is transformed into a Fifties paradise. Vintage cars, hot rods and kustom bikes are parked outside the main entrance as hundreds of people styled in vintage or repro are checking into their chalets while a Bluegrass band performs live to get them into the mood. Not that anyone would need any encouragement!

2009’s three-day event kicks off with a stellar lin-up of live bands, including legendary sax player Big Jay McNeely (pictured below), known as the King of the Honking Tenor Sax, whose shows in the Fifties used to regularly cause minor civil unrest, with audiences driven wild by his crazy antics. Now a man in his Eighties, little has changed.

bigWhile live bands perform in the grand ballroom each evening, a smaller room has DJs play swing, rock’n’roll and rockabilly. Dancing couples are everywhere, the ladies sporting full-circle dresses, pencil skirts, red lips and intricate up-dos, while the gents have opted for suits, flat caps and plenty of slicked- back hair.

Each evening the party continues way into the next morning, but early risers don’t have to fear boredom. Flick-Knife barber Mr Ducktail and vintage coiffeur Miss Betty have set up a vintage-style shop perfect to get you styled for the evening’s festivities. A huge shopping area jam-packed with vintage and repro stalls entices to stock up on clothes, shoes, accessories, records and homewares. And the beach is just a stroll away for anyone who can bear facing the British winter weather.

The second evening offers a night of sinful entertainment in form of the Lady Luck Room. DJs El Nino and Lady Kamikaze from London’s Cotton Club play their rare vinyl while burlesque dancers add some sizzle.

Upstairs German 10-piece band Ray Collins’ Hot Club (pictured below) have everyone swinging and jiving with their breathtaking performance, making it hard to believe you are still indeed in the 21st-century.


Sunday morning is a good time to get up early (or still be awake) as one of the ballrooms is transformed into a huge flea market with international sellers flogging their wares.

With anything from vintage deco items, china, shoes, clothes, accessories and collectors items on sale you can sure find a bargain here, although some of the prices are rather steep.

The highlight of the afternoon is the vintage car cruise around the Pontins site and into nearby Rye.
Then it’s time to get ready for the final evening, which has a tropical theme so plenty of sailor, sailorettes, tiki and Hawaiian outfits are around.

It’s a difficult trip into the real world for everyone on Monday morning. Good to know then that come 2010 we’ll do it all again!

Book your tickets for next year now and pay 2009 prices!














































all images: Claire Pursglove