Frankie Jaffey 1977-2020

Frankie Jaffey

Frankie Jaffey 1977-2020

On Monday, January 20th 2020 the funeral of Frankie Jaffey took place at Brandwood End Cemetery. A clear blue sky on a cold January afternoon saw Frankie’s closest family, her partner, and a few close friends attend a traditional Jewish burial that marked the end of her fight with cancer.

I first met Frankie not through dancing but through work. A bright enthusiastic lady starting a new job in a secondary school in Chelmsley Wood. With an infectious smile and positive attitude, we soon became friends and eventually, she convinced me I should attend her Lindy Hop class. At this point, I hadn’t done any partner dancing and even my dad dancing was sub-par. That was in 2008.

Cricket Club Days

I don’t have lots of details about when Frankie started to Lindy Hop. I know that she was a big part of JazzJiveSwing with James and Bridget in Cheltenham; that for many years she taught at Kings Heath Cricket Club. I’ve tried to remember more details but they’re not clear and hopefully, those who were there can fill in the gaps in the comments below. My personal Lindy Hop journey starts in 2008.

The Billesley Era

In 2008 I started to attend Lindy Hop classes at the Billesley Pub in Kings Heath. Here Frankie was teaching 3 classes on a Thursday evening with Phil Morland. The classes were extraordinary! Frankie’s boundless enthusiasm, passion and sheer enjoyment left everyone wanting more. In that first set of classes, I met beginners who later on would become a much bigger part of the wider Birmingham swing scene. 

There were occasional social dances at the British Legion in Northfield and excursions down to Staverton, Cheltenham to JazzJiveSwing Social events. In Birmingham the scene was small, one set of classes a week and the occasional social.

The start of something new

Things in Birmingham developed in 2010 when a couple of the dancers from class decided to host an event at the Dark Horse in Moseley. Hot Ginger. Andy Conway and Stephen Badham got together and over the next couple of years put on themed dances. Stephen still runs Hot Ginger and is one of the founding members of the Birmingham Swing Festival. Andy continues to love Jazz music and is a prolific author. 

Frankie continued to teach and DJ at these events and at also at the Sunday Afternoon tea dances which were organised by more dancers from class, Martyn Nelson and Claire. The scene in Birmingham was being established.

During 2010-2013 Frankie encouraged dancers to break out of Birmingham and attend other events. Bristol Swing Festival, London Swing Festival, European Swing Dance Championships. No matter where we went, everyone knew Frankie, wanted to dance and spend time with her. Frankie always had a smile in public.

Time for change

In 2012 Phil Morland needed surgery on his knees, this left Frankie without a partner.  Step in Martyn Nelson, later to become the founder of The Swing Era. Along with the change in teacher Line up the classes also moved to the Caledonian Corks club in Kings Heath. The newly found partnership bought a new lease of life to classes and to both of their dancing. Frankie’s enthusiasm for teaching and dancing reached new heights, unfortunately, this was short-lived and in the summer of 2013 Martyn quit teaching for personal reasons. That summer Frankie took stock of what Lindy hop meant for her. She’d been teaching for nearly 10 years, dancing was becoming less and less enjoyable. There were some tough decisions ahead.

Another change

September 2013, Frankie recruits a teaching assistant, me (Karl Bisseker). Classes continue with Frankie doing all of the teaching, it’s exhausting for her. I see the fatigue and there are many conversations about how to make this better. They all end with the same scenario.

In 2014 at the Bristol Swing Festival, Frankie’s energy levels are up and dancing is a joy. It’s clear that this scene holds something that she’s been craving. It’s also the event where she meets Max, her future partner. She leaves the event on a high, noted by the drive home with Frankie and Sam both sing loudly all the way back to Birmingham despite the obvious fatigue from a weekend of workshops and dancing.

Stepping down but not out

Summer 2014, Frankie takes a step back from teaching. In Birmingham, things begin to change. Sam Rooney joins me to continue teaching for JazzJiveSwing and, Rob Farley and Sarah Kelly join to start a second night of dance classes. Rob and Sarah also having been taught by Frankie in the previous years.

And this is when Frankie becomes a dancer of two cities; Birmingham and Bristol. Something that she adores. Unburdened from teaching she’s able to re-ignite her passion for dancing and life. It’s also when later in the year she is diagnosed with Bowel Cancer.

In 2015 three new swing dance companies emerged in Birmingham; All About Swing ( Rob and Sarah), Lindy Hop Birmingham ( Karl and Sam) and The Swing Era ( Martyn). All of whom were taught and inspired by Frankie and her passion for Lindy Hop. Without her influence Swing dancing in Birmingham would probably be very different.

To be continued

At this point, this brief and abridged history of Lindy Hop in Birmingham ends, temporarily. Please add your comments regarding your memories of Frankie and how she influenced swing dancing in Birmingham. It would be great to fill in the gaps regarding the Cricket Club period. 

Karl

8 Comments

  1. This ís very sad, Frankie was always so enthusiastic and always so cheery and full of fun. I met her in 2000 I think at Kings Heath cricket club wher James and Bridget taught. Her mum used to go to the classes too and so did my son Ben. He enjoyed dancing with Frankie and her mum.
    I had breast cancer in 2012 and I stopped going to classes for some time, Frankie was very supportive.
    I used to see her mum walking in cannon hill park during park run but I haven’t seen her a while. I can’t imagine how her parents feel, my thoughts are with them.
    I feel very sad , Jill Sansum x

  2. I have such fond memories of those good old days, dancing at the cricket club in Kings Heath. A group of us started dance lessons at virtually the same time. Everyone was so enthusiastic, and rarely missed a dance class with James and Bridget. Occasionally an evening dance was put on, so that we could practice our beginners moves. ( There was absolutely no Swing/Lindy dance scene in Birmingham then). We all became such good friends. Eventually we grew in confidence and travelled up and down the motorway in a dance convoy, usually to Cheltenham or Gloucester.. Frankie, me (Jo), Molly, Jude and John. Poor John getting very embarrassed with our ’Lady’ stories, and Frankie laughing at what all us (slightly) older ladies got up to, gasping in horror at the stories. We had such a laugh and so many giggles on those nights. We always had a cup of tea (from a flask) and some of Molly’s homemade cake before we set off home, excited about all the dancing we’d done. Eventually James and Bridget saw the potential in Frankie and asked her to help out. Bridget was having another baby and couldn’t make Birmingham every week. Frankie loved helping out and eventually became a teacher in her own right. Unfortunately the class was disbanded, and our much loved group went in different directions. Eventually Frankie started up a new group of her own and ‘hey presto‘ this is where the Birmingham Lindy scene began. Frankie has left a wonderful legacy, where so many people now enjoy dancing and teaching in Birmingham. Frankie was such a strong warm hearted women. Her enthusiasm, boundless energy, positivity and love to dance will stay with me, and so many more for ever.

  3. Beautifully written Karl, thank you. What a lovely, lively lady Frankie was. Barbara and I took to her right from the start , who didn’t? I now think I know Frankie a little better and consider one of the lucky ones to have enjoyed her company so often. Her sad passing at such an early age proves there is no justice. Thanks for the memories Frankie.

  4. When Frankie took over for a short while for James n Bridget before the class was closed at the cricket club. Frankie taught with John Web. One of our gang.

  5. Hi Karl.
    As I remember, this is how it started.
    Many years ago (can’t exactly remember when – maybe 2001) I was leafleting in Kings Heath for a new dance class – Jazz-Jive & Lindy Hop, to be held at the Kings Heath Cricket Club. A young couple were walking on the opposite side of the road and I recognised the woman from my restaurant. I crossed over to say hello, we chatted for a short while, I gave her a leaflet and asked her her name, ‘Frankie’ she replied. She came to the class and that was the start of Frankie’s dance journey in Birmingham.

    As with so many people Frankie and I became great friends. We’d travel the length and breath of the country to do Lindy either as an evening social or a weekender. We had no choice as there were no socials in Birmingham at that time.

    One of our favourites was the Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham. With a car load of keen dancers we’d head down the M5, dance the night away to some great tunes, meet other dancers, laughing and giggling with smiles from ear to ear. After the dance we’d drink tea in the car-park (which we brought with us) and eat homemade cakes before heading back to Brum. Another favourite was Jumping at the Woodside, then hosted at the Guild Hall and the New County Hotel in Gloucester. Hours of classes during the day, chilling in the late afternoon, refuelling in a nearby restaurant, dressing up (loads of that as the fancy dress theme was a must), dancing all night, dancing at the Hotel After Party, tea and toast at 1am and a late night tipple to finish off. Then do it all again the next day. Happy days!!

    It was quite clear that Frankie had a lot of potential and enthusiasm for teaching. Her bubbly personality drew people in and her passion for teaching was evident. In my absence (I left the country for a few years) Frankie busied herself teaching with JazzJiveSwing and eventually she hosted her own class. On my return years later the swing dance scene in Brum had exploded. Classes had grown and social events were happening all over. Lindy Hop in Birmingham was now on the map!!!
    And that’s what I remember.
    Will miss my lovely friend. R.I.P Frankie.
    Molly X

  6. Author

    Comments from Chico White, copied from Facebook.

    When Phil Moreland had to have his knee operation, I took over for six fab weeks with Frankie with lessons, prior to Martyn. We had a fab time and loads of laughs. The six weeks were full of learners, with no room to move and we had to get on the stage to teach. Then we had a huge circle and taught from the middle. They were a fab six weeks and Frankie had a great time with me. Never forgotten, Frankie…you have a rest now and have a nice dance with Frankie Manning XX. I remember when we were at the Gloucester weekend and you had some fab dances with Frankie Manning, Chazz and others. You always made sure you got to dance with the tops in Lindy. I will always remember our long, warm hugs. They meant a lot to each of us. You were a fab, fab dancer, our kid. I will never, ever forget your lovely smile. Keep dancing. Much love and respect for your teaching and friendship. Goodnight, my lovely. XXX

  7. I was the other half of the ‘young couple’ Molly mentions above. We started Jazz Jive together, so I guess I was her first partner. We went to lessons together for some time, and socials at the Pittville pumproom. Her enthusiasm was far in excess of mine and I dropped out of it where she continued with what became her passion.

    Heard the news today, very sad and she was always loved by many.

  8. This is such sad news. Sadly I hadn’t seen Frankie for many years with just a brief meeting in 2012. Frankie was so full of life and lived to dance. I met Frankie at Jazz Jive Swing classes at Kings Heath cricket club where James and Molly were teaching at the time. A small group of us quickly became friends at a time when I think we all needed an escape from life and Lindy hop was it! Every Thursday I would drop Frankie home and dissect the moves we had learnt and moan about the lack of men who could lead, and every dance we tried to attend to get some practice in! We did several ‘Woodside’ weekends, always a laugh and such an amazing part of my life. I am so glad that Frankie continued to enjoy her passion and encourage others to dance but so sad that we will never meet to catch up on those early days. Rest in peace Frankie x

    With Love

    Jude xx

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