Back in town after 50 years, The Rhythm Girls reunite
- Credit: Archant
After years at opposite ends of the world, laughs and tears came when a dancing duo finally reunited.
Jane Wright and Linda Annison sang and danced many nights away in the '60s, being hired for weddings as The Rhythm Dolls. On Thursday, Mrs Annison returned from Australia to her birthplace of Fakenham, visiting childhood friend Mrs Wright as she did.
They began dancing at Fakenham Church Hall's Thursday Night Hop, but became an act after winning a talent contest at Dereham Memorial Hall in 1962.
The girls were 13 and 14, but were the centre of attention. They won £10 between them and Mrs Wright said: "I thought I had better put the money toward a new dress, and maybe a Mother's Day gift for the following Sunday. I don't think she ever did see a gift, the money probably went on fags."
They then won again at Narborough, practicing their moves in the village hall's toilets. The girls were invited to appear on Anglia TV's Junior Angle Club, but both needed release forms to get out of school.
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Mrs Annison said: "The high school wouldn't let us at first, but my mum spoke to them and told them what's what. She came up with our name too, but I always had trouble spelling it."
Before long, they were hired at weddings across the county, dancing the twist, the locomotion, the jive and trying the lift, later seen as the iconic move from the film Dirty Dancing.
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Eventually, The Rhythm Girls entertained with bands at Lynford Hall, near Thetford. Jimmy James, owner of the hall, asked if they had any other skills, so Mrs Wright began singing while Mrs Annison danced. After several shows, at the age of 15, she was asked to come with Colin Hicks' band to Sweden as part of their act.
Unable to find a chaperone to come with her, Mrs Wright declined. When Mrs Annison asked her if she thought she was a good singer, she said: "I liked it, but I couldn't sing for toffee."
They stopped their shows at Lynford Hall soon after each other, going on to find jobs in Fakenham's bookbinders and shoemakers. Mrs Wright married at 17, and has been ever since. Mrs Annison moved to Australia in 1977, rarely coming back in the meantime.
She said: "I was a bit homesick at first so I came back in '78. But I said 'Bit cold, isn't it', and went straight back."