Just down from The Shard, off Tanner Street in Bermondsey is The Ropewalk Market on Maltby Street, an alley way bordered by antique shops brimming with vintage delights and, on the weekends, packed to the rafters with food stalls, small scale booze producers and weekend foodies.
I was meeting a photography group called Click London there to take pictures inside the tiny, cramped inner salon of Lassco, a warehouse overflowing with all things reclaimed, revived and rejuvenated, from tweed flat caps to worn suitcases, gleaming brass door handles and warm wood, glowing golden and maple and chestnut. It’s a treasure trove, it’s mind-boggling and completely immersive and I managed to take near-on 100 pictures of the stock alone.
Inside a wee inner room, the entrance half-hidden by racks of vintage dresses and coats, you’ll find the Secret Salon, where swing bands and dancers come to play and move to an old-fashioned sort of beat.
The guitarist was pure cockney, the singer a Londoner through and through who sang with as perfect a French accent as Edith Piaf and, as the band started to play and the music filled the room I was reminded why I love London. I love it for these rare moments of discovery and joy, contained in that moment in a rose-tinted room on a creaking antique stool. Sure the gin cocktails outside were being served at inflated hipster prices and I didn’t have enough money in my purse to buy one of the haggis scotch eggs that were calling to me from a plate of burnished beauties on a stall outside, but in here something wonderful was happening.
And as they continued to play the dancing began. The professionals, dressed to the nines, moved so fast and so precisely that they became a blur. In the dim, orange light the women looked like they were on fire as they twirled around and around and around. The amateurs who joined in later were easier to photograph and I became transfixed by a young couple swaying slowly, their eyes only ever fixed on each other. It felt like love in motion.
I took over 200 pictures on Saturday, but here are my favourites. I would love to hear if anyone else has caught a swing dancing session in the Maltby Market and if they enjoyed it as much as I did!