My first ever Jamfest

The end of June found me heading down the M20 towards the south Kent coast.  I was on my way to my first ever Jamfest – the summertime Ceroc Weekender held at the Camber Sands Pontins Holiday camp.  I’d been many years ago to the winter weekender at Camber, but this was long before I started my blog and I remember very little about it.

I’d heard that Jamfest was considered by many as the best of the Camber Weekenders and I was interested to see how it compared with my beloved Ceroc Southport weekenders.  What was certainly going to be different was the weather.  June’s Southport had been a bit of a washout and as a result, there had been no opportunity to dance outside on the Friday night or Saturday.  However, the weather for Jamfest promised soaring temperatures.

Hopefully, my articles give a true picture of this dance fest

Ceroc Weekenders are packed with so many things to do, and it’s easy to overdo it.  As a result, I’ve learnt to pace myself.  I prefer to save my energy for the dancing itself and do few if any lessons, though I was determined to do the Ice-breaker class on the opening Friday night.  However, I have another problem to do with my writing.  I soon realise that there is so much material I could write about so I’ve limited myself to just two articles.

This first one gives an overview of Jamfest as I write about what we all loved about it.  I’m indebted to the many people who gave up some of their dance and socialising time to tell me just what they loved about Jamfest.  I hope that in identifying twenty things that we all loved about this summertime weekender anyone who was there will recognise the things that I’ve featured as being worthy of a mention.

If there is anyone who has still to go to Jamfest, or indeed any of the other Ceroc Escape Weekenders, and wonders what all the fuss is about, I hope they will get a flavour of this great social gathering and be inspired to join in with the fun in the future.

Let’s not forget the music

Of course, Jamfest is primarily about the dancing and that makes the music one of the most important aspects of the weekend.  The musical offering at Jamfest was as good as any weekender I’ve been to and in my follow-up article, The Spirit of Jamfest in 2o Tracks  I’ll shine a light on the fabulous diverse musical offering that the team of top DJs served up for us.

First though let me look at what people said they loved about Jamfest, along with some of the things that I loved too.  It’s fair to say that there was so much going on that I had to edit my list down.  I still think it gives a flavour of what many people told me was one of the best Camber weekend dance fests for some time.

1: We ❤️ that Jamfest is in the summer

All three of the Camber Sands Weekenders are well attended but it seems that Jamfest at the end of June is everyone’s favourite and not unsurprisingly it’s a sell-out.  Here’s Karen a Kent dancer who is a regular at Jamfest:

I love coming to Camber, and Jamfest is, without doubt, my favourite.  I suppose it’s because it’s in the summer and everything is so much better in warm weather.

I know that many people comment on the accommodation at Southport and Camber and there is no doubt that not having to worry about the unreliable heating is a big plus, but it has other advantages and none more so than being able to sit outside your chalet and chill-out with your friends over a long drink or a glass of prosecco.  There is no doubt that the beautiful warm weather we enjoyed over the Jamfest weekend was a plus for everyone, particularly those that had planned BBQs (more of which in item 10).

The Ceroc Fleet BBQ was one of many held over the weekend

2: We ❤️ the Ice-breaker Class

Most people at Jamfest are Weekender veterans and take it in their stride, but many people are not that confident and need a little help to ease them into the weekend.  It’s one of the reasons that people go in groups and share chalets with their friends.  Your first weekender can be a little nerve-wracking and this is particularly true of first-timers.  It’s for this reason that people love the Ice-breaker class on the Friday Night.  Here’s Anastasia a first-timer from Milton Keynes talking about her experience:

I’d been told so many great things about the Ceroc weekenders, but I did feel a little anxious about it all as I didn’t really know what to expect.

I too was eager to join in as, for all travels around different dance venues, surprisingly didn’t recognise anyone while I was checking in and emptying my car.  So I joined Anastasia in the lines of the Ice-breaker class run by Ceroc Dorset’s Brett Stewart ably assisted by his demo Claire.   Brett started off by asking how many people had never been to Camber before.  There was a surprising show of hands.

Teacher Brett Stewart asks how many people were Camber first-timers – quite a few

Brett relaxes everyone with a fun-filled class

Brett was the perfect teacher to run this opening class as his warm and bubbly personality added lots of laughter and fun as we did our best to grasp what was at times a challenging intermediate level routine.  Brett constantly reminded people to introduce themselves.  Here’s Anastasia again:

The class was a great help to me as I got the opportunity to introduce myself to lots of my male partners.  I soon got a sense that everyone was very friendly and this really helped when I had to ask people to dance.

The following day I met one of the ladies, I now know as Carol from Oxfordshire, who I remembered from the Ice-breaker class the previous day.  She was a Camber first timer and I commented on how much fun she seemed to be having in the class:

You seemed to be enjoying yourself in the Ice-breaker class.  You never stopped laughing.

Oh, I laugh to cover up the embarrassment of when I go wrong.  I went wrong a lot, but I’m still pleased I did the Ice-breaker class.

It seems that everyone I spoke to loved the class and It was a great way to relax so you were ready for when the dancing started for real.  I asked teacher Brett for his own thoughts about the class:

Opening up the weekender was a privilege.  The main aim of the class was to get everyone on the floor doing some cool moves, but above all having a ton of fun and setting the tone for the weekend ahead.

Mission accomplished Brett.  People had their first taste of meeting and dancing with a whole group of new people.  It certainly set me up and Anastasia tells me that she had a fabulous time that first night on the dance floor.  Weekenders are always friendly affairs, but you don’t know that when you are a first-timer and that’s why we love the Ice-breaker class.

3: We ❤️ Graham’s Photos

As the weekend progressed photographer Graham Farey was around to capture the action with his camera.  We all love having our photographs taken when we are having a great time, and none more so when we are on the dance floor.  I suspect that Graham’s albums of Jamfest will be shared all over Facebook.  Graham’s photo albums capture the joy we all felt on the dance floors at Jamfest and I’ve put a link to them at the bottom of this article so you can see for yourself the fun everyone was having.

Those who were there might want to spot themselves.  Oh, just one thing Graham.  Where are the ones of me?  Sadly it seems I didn’t make the cut!

I also mention Graham’s photos because I’ve used some of them to illustrate the points I make about Jamfest.  Photographs always paint a better picture than words and Graham’s shots certainly do that.  I’ve duly acknowledged those photos that I lifted from Graham’s albums and my thanks to the Ceroc team for making the photos quickly available and free of charge on the official Ceroc Escape Website.  Any uncredit photos are from my own iPhone.

Graham Farey captures the action during the Group Cabaret act on Saturday night.

4: We ❤️ love the dancing

Jamfest is, afterall, more than anything about the dancing, and there’s lots of it.  You can dance until 5:30 in the morning on Friday night, 6 in the morning on Saturday and until 6:30 on Sunday night.  You can dance in the afternoons too.  I reckon that there are about forty hours of freestyle dancing on offer if you have the stamina, but many people get in over twenty hours.  It beats the four hours of freestyle that most people dance over the average weekend back at home.

There are so many different styles of dancing too.  The most popular place to dance is the upstairs Thunderball Room with its regular main room sounds that we are all familiar back home at our local freestyle.  For lovers of chill-out music, there is a full programme in the downstairs Cyclone Room and the occasional slot in the Boudoir with opportunities to dance outside.  For lovers of Tango Warren and Irina run a Milonga in the Tempest Room before it turns in to a Blues Lounge with Marc Forster and Rachel Pears on the decks.

There is also a series of speciality hours in the Boudoir, including Motown, Country, West Coast Swing and the much-loved Swingers Hour (see item 19)   Many of these sessions spilled out on to the open-air dance floor that in temporarily laid out.  It was here that I was to enjoy one of my favourite DJ slots of the weekend – but more of that later.

Graham Farey snaps the dancing in The Thunderball Room, The SILC Zone and outside The Queen Vic

5: We ❤️ love DJing for you

All this great dancing needs a whole team of DJs to ensure that the dancers enjoy a wonderful mix of music.  Getting a slot behind the decks at a large venue like Camber is a real highlight for the DJs who get these gigs.  Having spoken to many of them as they spin their tracks on the stage, looking down on a packed dance floor, I can assure you that they love it.

Most of the sets are just one hour in duration, so this enables the DJs to fill their playlists with guaranteed floor fillers.  While the best DJs will be tweaking their playlist as they read the floor to ensure the vibe stays near the max, they do prepare for hours. They keep tabs on the latest tracks and search around the dance music vaults for hours to find their own exclusive or long forgotten tracks that will ignite the dance floor.

I was lucky enough to get to speak to Paul Brooks, who tells me he is one of the longest-serving Ceroc DJs at Jamfest, while he span his tracks to a packed Thunderball Room on Friday night.  Paul explained what he loved about having a Jamfest main room slot:

I love that I have the freedom to play many of those classic floor fillers that everyone loves.

Ever since I saw Paul skillfully provide the soundtrack to the Ceroc London Champs I’ve taken an interest in his DJ craft.  I loved the way he kept the dance floor at the January Swish weekender energised.  At Jamfest Paul mixed in some modern floor fillers with his classic selection and it wasn’t long before he set the Thunderball Room floor on fire with a run of tracks that climaxed with Sash’s ’90s club anthem Ecuador.

I’ll be talking more about Paul’s fabulous music in my follow up music article – The Spirit of Jamfest in 12 tracks.

DJ Paul Brooks looks down on a packed dance floor as he plays his Saturday night set.  Photo courtesy of Paul Brooks

6: We ❤️ meeting up with friends

There is one thing that people told me they loved about Jamfest more than even the dancing and that was the opportunities it provided to catch up with friends.  Here’s Karen again:

When I’m out dancing at a regular freestyle I’ll spend most of my time on the dance floor.  A weekender gives me the opportunity to catch up with those dance friends I just see fleetingly at a freestyle.

This catching up with friends was something I was told about so many times.  Friends Elisa and Denise were two others who explained that they loved the chance to chill-out with friends and had the time to properly catch up.

Karen who dances socially at Canterbury and Faversham will occasionally travel to some of the London venues:

What I love about Camber is that I’ll get to dance again with people I’ve met on my travels.  Having a chance to just sit and chat with these people is one of the things I love about Jamfest.

One of the most popular places to just chill-out with friends was the sitting area outside the Queen Vic Pub.  An ideal place to get a cool beer too.

Time for a beer and a catch-up.  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

A chance to dance with people we’ve met on our travels

I too enjoyed that, as the weekend unfolded, I started to recognise people I’d danced with on my travels, and it was great to get the chance to dance with them again.  On the Saturday night I recognised a lady I’d danced with at Rochester, one of The Ceroc Kent venues.  I remember her being a fabulous dancer and it was great to know that when I needed someone who could match my energy I could look to ask her to dance.  Being a good dancer she wasn’t always free, but I would occasionally get lucky.

One such time happened on Sunday night in The Thunderball Room.  I think it was DJ James Ross on the decks and he pulled out a fabulous track I hadn’t heard in a while – The Jive Aces with their version of Singing in the rain.  This version has a real swing feel with a wonderful bouncy beat.  I got lucky, the aforementioned lady was free.  As we walked on to the dance floor I mentioned that it was a real favourite of mine.  She looked at me and smiled:

No pressure then!

Needless to say that we smashed it and as we came off the dance floor I couldn’t help but comment that she was a joy to dance with.  We all want to partner people who can give us these memorable dances.  Thankfully weekenders like Jamfest, with the hundreds of great dancers, give us all plenty of opportunities.

Across the weekend I also started to recognise many dancers that I’d met in January at Swish the weekender held at the Potters Resort in Norfolk.  Many people who go to Swish live in East Anglia and the North Eastern suburbs of London.  It’s too far for them to go to Southport but Camber seems to be their go-to weekender and it was great to meet up with so many of them.

I get to meet up with friends I’d originally met at Swish in January.  Photo courtesy Tel Jenkins

7: We ❤️ the SILC Zone

Most people spend their time dancing in the large upstairs Thunderball Room with its hi-energy mix of Ceroc Classics, the latest chart sounds and a sprinkling of club anthems.  But there is a group of dancers who want to spend their time dancing to more contemporary slower grooves and dance in the more modern slotted way.  These people find their way every night into the Cyclone Room, AKA The SILC Zone.

I’ve come to love dancing in this smoother slotted style and I enjoyed several sessions in this room in between more energetic dancing in the Thunderball Room.  However, there are people who never leave the SILC Zone – as the more frantic dancing of the Thunderball Room has no appeal.  I get that, and it’s great to know that lovers of more chilled-out music are catered for with long sessions each night that stretch into the early hours.

These smooth jive sessions attract some of the best DJs from the chill-out circuit and I was pleased that I got to dance to a set from DJ and SLIC teacher Caine Langford.  I’d first come across Caine’s music at one of his Bristol-based SILC Sundays last summer.  I’d always thought that Caine was just a teacher, but his understanding of the music that is best suited to a smoother SILC style way of dancing gives him the perfect credentials to be a chill-out DJ.  I’ll be featuring one of Caine’s delicious tracks when I turn my attention to the music tracks that I feel best represent the true Spirit of Jamfest.

The Cyclone Room dance floor is very busy as DJ Caine Langford spins a delicious mix of chill-out music

8: We ❤️ the lessons

If there is one thing that Ceroc weekenders are known for, it is the comprehensive programme of lessons. Jamfest had a wonderful set of lessons spread over Saturday and Sunday.  What’s more, people love these lessons and even though they are dancing into the early hours they find the motivation to get out of bed and participate in the lessons.  What’s more people love learning something completely different.

The picture below shows a packed Thunderball Room dance floor on Saturday afternoon.  What’s interesting is that the lesson was a ballroom one – Strictly no sequins, an American Smooth class run by teacher Glen Brooks.  The programme also included lessons on Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, Cha Cha Cha, Tango, Bachata, Zouk and Tag Dancing where a lady dances alternatively with two men.  There were also four lessons designed for Beginners.

You could be down the beach or in Glen Brooks packed American Smooth class

I love the names of the class

When the programme for Ceroc Weekenders come out, I love looking at the elaborate names some of the classes are called.  Strictly no sequins is a great name for an American Smooth Class.   Others that stood out this time were Telepathy – Develop unbreakable connection, World of Whips – basic to challenging, but my favourite name was one that Weekender first-timer Anastasia did.   It seems Anastasia really threw herself into the lessons on Saturday:

I did three lessons on Saturday, one after the other.  My favourite was Kick Butt Moves – Stylish sits and drops.  I loved the fun way they broke down quite difficult moves in such a way that I felt confident to do them.

What a great name for a lesson Kick Butt Moves is.  It was taught by husband and wife team G and Emma Wright, the newest members of the Jamfest teaching team.  They started teaching in their native New Zealand and they seem to have developed quite a following for their flashy fun classes with added Kiwi flair.  The lesson I saw was particularly busy even though it was very warm and people were starting to head for the beach.

This exert from Saturday’s programme shows the variety of lessons on offer

9: We ❤️ the beach

The Pontins Holiday camp at Camber was built next to one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern England.  As soon as there is a promise of sun people flock to this immense expanse of golden sand in their thousands.  The beach is only a short walk from the camp and I think just about everyone spent some time there over the weekend.  Not surprising really, because the warm sunny weather was perfect for a stroll along the beach.

It seems the weather’s always good for Jamfest.  Here’s Gail, one of the Ceroc Fleet faithful:

This was my fourth time at Jamfest and the weather has always been beautiful.  That means there so much more to do than just dance.  You can sit outside having a drink with friends, go to one of the BBQs or have a stroll along the beach.

I’ll talk a bit more about the BBQ that Gail invited me to in the next item, but this is a good lead in to talk about a video that shows just how beautiful the beach at Camber Sands is.  Last year I was hunting around YouTube for Ceroc videos when I came across three video blogs about the 2018 Jamfest Weekender made by David Addiss.  The second of these videos (go to 4 mins 20 secs) shows footage of a dance that David organised on the beach.  The drone footage, in particular, shows just how extensive and beautiful this beach is.

10: We ❤️ the BBQs

The weather this June was just perfect for a BBQ, and the smell of smokey charcoal was to be enjoyed all over the holiday camp.  The BBQs came in all shapes and sizes but I was lucky to get an invite from the aforementioned Gail, to what must have been one of the biggest – the one organised by Lisa Benson for her Ceroc Fleet dancers on Saturday afternoon.  The Ceroc Fleet BBQ has grown over the years and this time round Lisa opened up the invitation to anyone who brought along some food for the barbie.

The result was an amazing get-together of close on a hundred people gathered around two BBQs in one of the quadrangles created by the chalet layout.  Lisa had managed to get some of her dancers into adjacent chalets and had put Fleet Street banners in the windows.  This Fleet Street was the stage for a wonderfully organised afternoon around two BBQs expertly maned by Mark Taylor and Kiwi Dave.

Gail poses with BBQ cooks Mark and Dave.  Don’t let that sausage burn Dave

The Ceroc Fleet crew transform the Quad

These two with the help of Lisa, Adel and John had also transformed the quad with suspended lines of bunting and lanterns.  Here’s Gail’s tribute to Lisa and her crew:

It must have taken Lisa, and the others, ages to put all the decorations up, but the result made our Fleet Street look superb.  Everyone mucked in to make it a perfect afternoon.

As I mentioned Gail invited me along and I saw for myself the way all the effort made for a great social gathering of dance friends.  Here’s Gail again:

We shared everything, food, Prosecco and enjoyable conversations.  All this and music too.  I can’t remember enjoying a BBQ so much in years.

But there is one other key member of her crew that Lisa wanted me to give a mention to, and that was Charlotte who provided a wonderful show of home-made cakes.  I’ve said it many times in my reviews and articles that his wonderful dance scene only functions because of the hard work and dedication of the many crew members who work behind the scenes.

Here was a great example of this hard work and dedication in action.  Take a bow Lisa, Charlotte, Mark, Dave, John and Adel.  This afternoon was a great success and you played a big part in that.  Oh, and one last thing.  Well done to the cooks.  I understand that not one sausage got burnt!

People soon start dancing under the decorations and lanterns put up by Lisa and her team

11: We ❤️ the Chalet Parties

Weekender Chalet Parties come in all shapes and sizes.  I remember fondly the parties my Nottingham Dance Gang would have after a late night on the dance floor at Southport.  They were small affairs, maybe just six or eight of us, but Prosecco and laughter would flow until the early hours.  Many of these chalet parties take place in the afternoon or early evening before the dancing starts for real.   You’d be making your way to the dance hall and you’d hear music coming from one of the chalets.  A quick glance inside would see people having all kinds of fun.

Some of these parties are a little grander and often have fancy dress themes.  They are often organised around one of the Ceroc Franchises, a little like the Ceroc Fleet BBQ, and there is one group that really goes to town – The Ceroc Evolution crowd from Greenwich and Brighton.  These guys have real form when it comes to themed chalet parties and their Heroes and Villains event is featured in the David Addiss video I featured in Item 9 (go to 8 mins 10 secs).

I also had great fun writing about their November chalet party with its ’60s and ’70s fancy dress theme featuring the largest Rum Punch in Camber history (see link below).  Here Steve Thomas and three of his sidekicks came dressed as the Beatles in the colourful satin costumes made famous by the Seargent Peppers Album cover.  My article is packed with images of the fabulous costumes including one where Elvis blesses the Rum Punch.

The Ceroc Evolution Facebook page has a great account of the Chalet Party

Oysters, Jelly Fish and the heroine from Baywatch

For this Jamfest, the Ceroc Evolution fancy dress theme was Beyond the Sea.  As always the Ceroc Evolution faithful and their guests went to town and people were dressed in all kind of costumes. There was all manner of Sailors, Pirates, and Fish – one guy came dressed as an oyster and a lady as a jellyfish!  I was pleased to hear that the jellyfish was one of the three winners.  I’ve put a link to the Beyond the Sea Facebook page so you can see for yourself the fun everyone was having.

Not only are there lots of photos of people in their costumes, but there are also some fabulous videos that tell their own story.  You have to watch the video posted by Kevin Sambridge of Nardiya and her friends singing their hearts out to the Celine Dion’s My heart will go on, the theme song from Titanic.  My own favourite video is the one that Nardiya posted of Julie doing her best impression of Pamela Anderson dashing to rescue a poor soul from the ocean.  If anything represents the true spirit of Jamfest it is this video.

Use the link below to find this wonderful video

12: We ❤️ the line dances

I’m always impressed just how much line dancing is done at weekenders.  Each year Tim Sant-Turner creates a nu-line dance for freestyles and weekenders and the Line Dance Junkies put on a great display of this year’s dance to Luke Bryan’s Country Girl (Shake It For Me), as Tim led them from the teaching stage in the main Thunderball Room.  But there were line dances breaking out all over Camber.

While photographing the Fleet Street BBQ I spotted a group of ladies doing the Fireball line dance outside their chalet.  It seems whenever this track pumps out of the speakers people are conditioned to get in a line.  In Swingers Hour a group led by Hayley Epps and Lyndsey Bennett lined up for a Charleston Stroll.  This line dance, beloved of Swing dancers, was one of the forerunners of the modern line dancing craze.

Sadly I’m not very good at these line dances.  I have tried following Tim’s online videos but I’d go to pieces when the actual music comes on.  One line dance I can do however is Cha Cha Slide – it’s very simple when you have someone leading from the front – and it was the subject of one of the best moments in my Jamfest diary (see item 15 below).

Line dancing in the Thunderball Room.  I think everyone’s on the same step!  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

13: We ❤️ entering the dance competition

On Saturday night a Cabaret Slot kicks off with an Open Dance Competition.  Anyone can join in and you have the chance to be a finalist in the Ceroc London Champs in May 2020.  These competitions are held at all the Ceroc Weekenders and they attract a lot of dancers.  What pleases me is that you see people of all standards entering.  Okay, there are some serious contenders but for most people, it’s a bit of fun and a great thrill to dance in front of a very large onlooking crowd.

As people started to make their way on to the dance floor I spotted Christina who I had recently danced with at Rochester during my last trip to Kent.  After she came off I asked her about the experience:

That was great fun, but I was very nervous to start with.

I asked Christina if she had always planned to enter.  It seems it was a spur of the moment decision:

Someone I’ve danced with a lot told me he wanted to enter and asked if I’d be his partner.  My initial response was something like ‘Oh my God’.

Did you take much persuading?

Not really.  He’s a lovely dancer and I must admit I was soon quite excited at the idea.  I think we did OK and it was great fun.

And that’s the point.  If you enter these competitions with the idea of just having fun, it’s just that.  However, there are some more serious dancers on the floor and the competition is an entertaining spectacle for the three hundred spectators seated around the perimeter of the dance floor.  There is always great excitement when the three judges, who are picked randomly from the audience, pick out their favourite dancers for a place in the final.

The image below shows the three finalists in action and every so often you would hear whooping and hollering from the audience as the couples did a spectacular move.  The eventual winners were the couple on the left of the picture.

Three couples do their stuff in the final.  Photos courtesy of Graham Farey

14: We ❤️ being inspired

There is something else about the Cabaret that entertains everyone and that is the Teachers Showcase.  I’ve always loved this part of the Cabaret as it’s full of inspiration.  It’s just what is needed.  It provides the inspiration to keep wanting to improve.  Watching on you realise that you have a long way to go, but suddenly you’ll see something that you know you can do if you just practice a little or go to one more workshop.

These displays by the teachers are enjoyed by it seems everyone and the warm applause they receive at the end of their routine is not just a recognition of how they have just performed but a thank you for all the lessons they’ve given us throughout our dance journeys.  Without these teachers, and the patience they show us, most of us would still be fumbling about trying to get to grips with the basic moves.

One of the couples I love watching is Matt Blain and his partner Victoria.  Matt is a great advocate of the smoother slotted style of dancing that I’ve been trying so hard over the last year to grasp.  Every time I watch him I see one little move that I try to include in my routine.  There is one other teacher who I hold in high esteem and that is Danielle Moore, who did a delicious Blues dance with Ekow Oduro.  When I applauded Dani at the end of her showcase dance it was my way of saying thank you for all those SILC and Slotted classes of hers and Caine’s I’ve been to.

Dani & Ekow and Matt & Victoria delight the crowd with their beautiful dancing.  Photos courtesy of Graham Farey

15: We ❤️ the Silent Disco

For those that don’t know what a Silent Disco is, let me explain.  You are given a set of headphone.  You now tune them to one of three different channels.  They are:

  • Turbo Channel – Hard and fasr dance bangers
  • Cheese Channel – Party anthems and Dance routine heaven
  • Classic Channel – The hottest chart hits from then and now

You now Disco Dance, also called Dad Dancing and remember you don’t need a partner, which is good because the next person may be on a completely different channel.  The Silent Disco was held in The Cube, the small room used for the Masterclass programme, on Friday and Saturday night after midnight.  It proved very popular.

On  Saturday night I stuck my head through the door and noticed that most of the people were doing the same dance routine.  I then spotted someone at the front of the room seemingly leading them through the moves.  They were doing another line dance routine.  I couldn’t help watching and trying to guess what track they were dancing to.  I thought I had an idea.

In seemingly complete silence the people are doing a line dance

Don’t know what to do – Just follow the Dancing Machine

I’ve written many times about the passionate people who, with their love of dancing and their wish to help others, underpin this wonderful dance scene.  One of those characters is Ceroc Kent dancer Chris Quinn AKA The Dancing Machine.  Chris has a great love of line dancing and is often asked to go on to the stage to lead the dancers down on the floor through the moves.  It’s Chris who you see in his red shirt in the line dance photo in Item 12.

After watching Chris give his instructions – remember he could only do the motions as no one would hear any verbal instructions – this really is a Silent Disco.  I thought I knew what the dance was but I checked with DJ James Ross:

It’s the Cha, Cha Slide

I was right.  I now watched in awe as Chris kept the dancers fully in step with each other.  It was one of those moments that I probably won’t see again but isn’t this what happens at Weekenders.  There is so much going off that there will always be something to surprise you and give a lasting memory.  No wonder we love weekenders so much.

16: We ❤️ the Music Video Hour

As I looked through the programme for Saturday night in The Thunderball Room one DJ Slot stood out.  At Midnight Paul Brooks would be doing a Music Videos slot.  When I caught up with him on Friday night I asked him what it was all about:

Funny you should ask Paul, because it’s created a lot of interest.  It’s going to be a bit of a challenge but the aim is to play the videos of the tracks on every single video screen in The Thunderball Room.

Paul told me how he attempted it at the previous Camber Weekender but just could not get the in-house system to sync with his DJ software.

It was a bit of a disaster in February so this time I’m going to do a trial run in the afternoon.

I wished Paul well as like many others I was excited by the idea.  I’m a bit of a music video addict and many of us remember how the arrival of MTV in 1981 revolutionised music promotion and the likes of Michael Jackson started to make film-quality videos toaccompany their latest releases.  The most famous of these was Jackson’s Thriller film, and since then most of our favourite dance tracks have been accompanied by great videos.

DJ Paul serves up a Club Anthem Classic

At a quarter past twelve, I walked in to the Thunderball Room and there on every video screen was a video of Michael Jackson.  As I walked past Paul on the decks I gave him the thumbs up.  It seemed everything had gone to plan.  Not so!  The following night I got to join Paul on stage as he fired up the Thunderball Room once again.

It went well then?

It did in the end and it was great watching people who weren’t dancing watching the screens around the room but we had a little hitch at the start.

I had Hayley Epps on standby just in case we couldn’t get it to work.  Thankfully I tweaked a few knobs and all the screens lit up perfectly synced to my DJ software.

I had been unaware of any drama and had simply written in my notebook some of the great video tracks that Paul had played.  Against one track I had drawn five big stars – Safri Duo’s Played alive (The Bongo Song).  Anyone who knows me will know that this club anthem has a special place in my heart, as it was one of the first tracks to take me to Dance Heaven.

I get the call to arms

When I heard the bongo filled intro, it was like a call to arms.  This track is filled with energy and I knew I would need a partner who would match my enthusiasm and join me on a journey to Dance Heaven.  I mentioned earlier that I’d met up with some of the people from the Swish Weekender in January.  One of those people was Sally.  I remembered Sally being a fabulous dancer and lucky for me I spotted her sat down at the edge of the dance floor.

I duly invited her on to the dance floor.  We all have dances where the connection with our partner makes for a great dance.  This was one such time and we absolutely smashed it.  As the screens around the room showed the two Safri Duo boys banging on the bongos, Dance Heaven opened its doors.  It’s moments like this that weekenders never fail to serve up.  Nice one Paul – that’s DJ Paul of course.

Success!  DJ Paul Brooks and Michael Jackson’s Don’t stop until you get enough on every video screen

17: We ❤️ Swingers Hour and Danny’s Funk

Swingers Hour is a well-loved speciality slot at both Southport and Camber and what is always so lovely is to see the ladies get dressed up in their swirly rock and roll dresses.  On Sunday afternoon Mike Ellard was behind the decks and he ripped up the floor with a full-on set of fast paced Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks.  Now, these fast tracks are not easy to dance to, but thankfully Lyndsey Bennett runs a Get ready for Swingers Hour lesson beforehand.

Sunday was a little cooler than Saturday and the area outside the Queen Vic was packed with people dancing or just watching with a cool drink.  Like many people, I find this music a little too fast but I knew that I had to have a least one dance and so I waited for a track that wasn’t 100 miles an hour and duly asked a lady I now know as Norma to dance.

We did really well, and Norma showed great enthusiasm and energy.  After our dance, I asked Norma if she might give me a few words about Swingers Hour:

I love it. Swingers Hour really lifts my spirit.

That’s something that I suppose all dancing does, but dancing with great energy to hi-energy music is a sure-fire way to escape the reality of our lives – no wonder then that Rock ‘n’ Roll just about took the world over.  Norma was keen to tell me a little about her approach to Swing dancing:

I can’t do it properly, but I give it some wellie and I get by.

Norma certainly did more than just get by, but what she said made me think.  Dancing isn’t just about getting the moves right.  It’s about the buzz too – expressing your love of the music and showing the joy on your face.  At times we both struggled with the fast beat a little, but we both gave it, as Norma said, some wellie and with the warm sun on our faces, we showed the joy that dancing can bring to anyone who dares to step on to a dance floor.   Another wonderful Jamfest memory.

The last picture shows Lyndsey Bennett dancing inside the Queen Vic Pub where I would soon get my funk fix

My funked-up bonus hour

When I looked at the Jamfest dance programme I will admit to one disappointment.  I couldn’t see the Funk Hour.  One of my Southport highlights is always DJ Vince Silva’s Funk Hour.  Vince had a few SILC Zone slots at Camber but it seemed there would be no hour of ’70s and ’80s funk to fulfil me.  After Swingers Hour I moved inside the Queen Vic, AKA The Boudoir, as DJ Danny Gallina took over for a SILC Vibe set.  His first track was chilled and funky and I enjoyed a wonderful smooth slotted dance with one of the ladies.

But it was his next track that really made me pay attention.  It was another funk track, this time from the ’80s.  Suddenly my dance brain was thinking I might be experiencing a Funk Hour after all.  The next track convinced me that SILC Vibe must be another way of describing a Funk Hour because Danny was hitting the funk button in my brain with just about every track.

Throughout this review I’ve resisted embedding any music videos – I wanted to leave that for my next review The Spirit of Jamfest in 12 Tracks, but I’ve got to let you hear one of Danny’s fabulous funk-infused tracks.  When William De Vaughn’s Be Thankful For What You Got hit the charts in 1972 it brought a more relaxed groove to the dance party.  This modern remix adds a little more attitude to make it a perfect track to accompany a contemporary smooth slotted style of dance.

After what was a wonderful dance I rushed up to the decks.  I knew the track was a remix of William De Vaughn’s ’70s classic but I wanted to know who had put it together.  He kindly looked at his screen and explained it was by FKJ.  Thanks for the info Danny and thanks for all the other fabulous funk tracks too.

18: We ❤️ being a weekender survivor

Most of us are used to getting to a regular freestyle anywhere between eight and nine and getting in three or perhaps four hours of dancing.  It’s a little different at weekenders.  The main dance floors don’t tend to get busy until ten o’clock and people are used to dancing through to two or even three o’clock in the morning.  There is however a breed of dancer that doesn’t actually leave their chalet until well after midnight when the dance floors are starting to thin out a little, and doesn’t return to their room until well after the sun has come up.

At a BBQ on Saturday afternoon I got to speak to Tam who dances in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.  He told me about his own practice at Jamfest:

This Jamfest has the feel of a Balearic Island.  Really hot weather and no need to go out until its cooling down a little.  I don’t start dancing until maybe one o’clock and I’ll stay out until the very end at six in the morning.

There are plenty of people like Tam at weekenders and they can usually be spotted in the survivors’ picture that is traditionally taken at 6:30 in The SILC Zone.  It fell to DJ Caine Langford to play the final two hour set in the Cyclone Room and he can be spotted in the centre on the front row.  Now, these people had to all check out of their chalets by ten o’clock – just three and a half hours away.  It was never going to happen – was it!

Caine Langford and the proud Monday morning survivors.  Photo posted by Danielle Moore

19: We ❤️ Louise’s crossword

Before I finish this review, I want to tell you the story of Louise’s Giant Crossword.  On Monday morning everyone is packing up their cars and leaving.  It’s a chance to say some last goodbyes and wish everyone a safe trip home.  After piling my bedding into the boot of my car I bumped into my good friend Louise Hickman, who is one of the Taxi team at Ceroc Beds & Bucks Aylesbury class night.  I asked Louise what she had loved about Camber.  Her answer surprised me, but it says so much about this Jamfest:

I loved doing my Giant Crossword Paul

My initial reaction was that I doubted how I could justify including an item about a crossword, but then Louise expanded a little:

It was Sunday afternoon.  I’d been dancing until late the night before and just needed a little chill-out time.  It was a glorious afternoon so I took a chair from out of my chalet, sat myself in the sun with a glass of wine and pulled out my Giant Crossword book.

With all the digital games on our smartphones, it’s great to know that the good old fashion fill-it-in-with-a-pen crossword puzzle is still a must-go-to for some proper relaxation.  Louise continued the story:

I did wonder how far I’d get – there were over a hundred clues.  Suddenly a guy, who was passing, asked what I was doing.  I pointed to my still over half-empty crossword puzzle.

I love crosswords.  Can I help?

Sure, I’m struggling with a few.  Please get a chair from the chalet and see if you can help.  I’m struggling with 54 Across – Reinforce, Verbally (6,4).  I’ve got H_ _ _E _H_M_.

Try Hammer Home.

Louise told me how she and her new friend made progress with some of the more difficult clues.  She then told me how another passing person inquired as to what they were doing.

A Giant Crossword.  Do you want to join in?

Yes, please.

Just get a chair from my chalet and let’s see what you can do.  Oh, would you like a glass of wine?

Wine was duly poured for the two new members, and the crossword continued to get filled in.  It wasn’t long before a third person asked to join them and soon showed their own crossword credentials.  The clues of a Giant Crossword are never too difficult but one clue remained stubbornly unsolved, even though Louise had got three of the letters.  1 Across – Famous Greek Oracle (6).  D_L_H_.  The latest member of the team soon cracked it:

One of the most famous Greek Oracles was situated in the city of Delphi.

Jamfest, in fact, every weekender is more than just dancing.  It is, after all, a place where like-minded people can meet up and do what humans do best – make friends and have fun.  Louise tells me that another passer-by joined the team and the Giant Crossword was soon done.  A bottle of wine had been emptied and four people had done what so many people had done this weekend – just chill-out in the sun with friends.

This story, I like to think, is typical of the friendliness of everyone at Camber.

The fact that complete strangers one minute will sit together to complete a crossword shows just how friendly this weekender is.  This friendliness is something I appreciated when I had to ask if I could talk to people about what they loved about Jamfest.  Can I take this opportunity to thank all the people who gave up some of their dance time to share their feedback with me, and a particular thanks to Louise for allowing me to tell the story of her giant crossword.

I photograph Louise’s completed Giant Crossword in the car park

20: We ❤️ that we can do it all again in November

There is no doubt that the regulars at Camber love their South Coast Weekenders as much as hundreds of us love Southport.  If proof were needed you just had to look at all the postings over Facebook, just a few days later, that told everyone the booking system for Bliss, the November event, was now open.  Ceroc Dorset who send a large contingent posted as early as 3rd July notice that bookings were open on their own Facebook Page.

There is no doubt that this early notification is design to help single ladies get tickets but it just shows how the weekender world never really stops.  If you can’t wait until November then there are still gender-balanced spaces available at my beloved Southport at the end of August.

I’ll end my review of Jamfest with this comment that was posted on the Ceroc Jamfest Camber Sands 2019 Facebook Page by first-timer Lillian.  It says it all:

This was my first ever Ceroc event and it did not fail to impress, I had the best time.  Already looking to book on to the next one!
Thank you to everyone for making it such a brilliant experience. X

I’ve put a link to the Ceroc Jamfest Facebook Page below, where you can see for yourself all the fun people had over the weekend.  Oh and one last thing.  My schedule for November is already very busy but I’ve blocked out the dates for March next year so I don’t miss out on having another fabulous time on the South Coast.

Follow the link below to book for November

Related Links

Graham Farey Jamfest Dance Album

Graham Farey Jamfest Portrait Album

Ceroc Evolution Beyond the Sea Facebook Page

The Ceroc Evolution ’60s & ’70s Chalet Party

Camber Bliss Weekender in November booking system

Camber Sands 2019 Facebook Page for all the reaction