A blast from the past at this quirky weekend festival in Norfolk
Rock ‘n’ roll, vintage fashion, classic beauty and all manner of beautiful old cars. As soon as you enter the otherwise sleepy, retro seaside holiday camp in Hemsby, Norfolk, you’re transported back to what life would have been like in 1950’s Britain – and it’s a real feast for the eyes.
This is the Hemsby Rock ‘N’ Roll Weekender. Twice a year, this tiny town becomes a haven for those who adore the vintage lifestyle. They spend the next four days reliving it in all its glory – from driving around in vintage cars (hot rods), through to jiving the night away to rockabilly bands. But it’s more than just people revelling in the good old days with rose tinted glasses. After all, a lot of things were pretty rubbish back then – hello minus rights for women. Hemsby is more of a really nostalgic and heart-warming experience that makes you yearn to leap back to the simplicity of yesteryear. Simple is definitely the word: the accommodation is in Fifties holiday chalets that sort of look like prefabs – and though you’ve got metered electricity, there’s little else to distract you. If I’m honest, I went to Hemsby, stressed out, dressed in black and a sort of grey colour. I came back revived, wearing a red dress and with a renewed attitude to life. Here’s why it was so ace:
The family vibes
When you think of a festival it tends to revolve around chaos, booze and more than occasional nudity. That’s not what happens here, there’s a seriously relaxed, almost family-like vibe. Couples in their Sixties are jiving along next to perfectly coiffed teens dressed in vintage threads. Everyone’s friendly to newcomer, like us, and generations of rockabilly enthusiasts are gathered together for the love of the music and lifestyle. It’s the loveliest thing to witness and a massive reminder that people really matter.
Let’s talk clothes, all the clothes. Though the women dress up and look absolutely incredible, it’s the men that really shine at Hemsby. Whether they’re into the Johnny Zuko greaser look or resplendent in bowling shirts or vintage suits, the men of Hemsby make a serious effort (take note regular chaps). Stores like Freddies of Pinewood were on hand for proper vintage inspired clothing and Bow And Crossbones for beautiful reproduction Jewellery. But it’s the effort that everyone puts into their looks that is really inspiring – pass me the vintage rollers and the circle skirt, stat – I’m breaking up with Cos. (I’m not really, that could never happen.)
The simple pleasures
It’s easy to wile away the time at fancy pop ups and bars if you’re a city dweller. But, things aren’t so hi-tech at Hemsby. In the day, there are dancing lessons, fashion shows and dance competitions – all wholesome and fun. Then you can eat proper fish and chips on the beach or hit up the casinos for a round of blackjack if you’re so inclined. Meanwhile if you head back to your chalet, you’ll see families having cookouts, playing cards and the guys standing around admiring their prized vintage cars –but essentially, that’s it – talk about mindful, peaceful and chilled out. Even in the evening when the dresses are on, the hair is slicked back and the bands are playing, there’s still a relaxed, homely vibe that I’d highly recommend to any burned out city type in need of a weekend of respite, with a difference!
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Hemsby Rock N Roll Weekender runs twice a year.