by Rowena Howie August 01, 2019
Hi. It's Rowena, owner and founder of Revival Retro. As part of the ten year anniversary celebrations I thought I would share with you a little about what led me set up this small business. So, here's how it all began..
In 2005 I was living in Melbourne. I had been working in Australia for a year and was making ready to return to the UK.
My current employer had offered me a position in their London office and as a last hurrah with my Melbourne colleagues we had planned a Sunday afternoon pub crawl for my leaving do.
As we wound our way through Fitzroy in the late afternoon sun, we passed a night club - one I had never been to as it’s not really my scene - when a weird thing happened. Emanating through the doors was a kind of music that I would absolutely not have expected to hear at The Black Cat. I was intrigued and convinced my friends to pop our heads in.
Inside it was a different world, like being transported back in time. Everyone was dressed to the nines in 1940s clothes, there was a Big Band playing live and the dance floor was filled with people dancing with partners.
I was amazed – this was my kind of thing and I wanted to get involved! Why was this my leaving party? Why was I moving to the other side of the world when I had just found my place, my people, my passion? I had to find out if this kind of thing happened in London. The chance to dress up and dance to this fantastic music seemed utterly beguiling.
Within a couple of months I had signed up to classes and by that December I was attending my first big night out with music and competitions and inspiring performances. It was amazing to watch from the sidelines, but I very much wanted to be a part of it all.
When I moved to London it was the first time I had ever lived in a big city. I was attracted to the bright lights and fast pace but in my head I saw it as a temporary move. I considered myself to be a small-town girl looking for an adventure. I believed that adventure would run its course over 2-3 years, after which time I would return to what I know best: not the countryside but not far from it.
Swing dancing was not only an exciting prospect, it was also an opportunity to become less anonymous in this big city: to meet people, share an enthusiasm and make friends.
Like many before me, I became a bit addicted and attended regular lessons to improve. The attachment is not to technique and style, it’s to a group of people with whom you already know you have something in common. Barriers are broken and regular new introductions are made as this is a partner dance, requiring that you actively socialise and have a physical conversation in dance, if not a verbal one, with the person in front of you.
I love music of all kinds but exploring swing music through dance was a total pleasure. Once you’ve grasped the basic technique, you can add your own expression of what you’re listening to in the dance. This isn’t just a personal joy; it’s communicated to the person you are dancing with and resonates with the people around you as you move.
Swing dancing was a wonderful way to get to know London too, travelling all over the city to different classes enabled me to learn more about the transport network and become more confident. I attended events in some beautiful old buildings, some of which I might never have seen otherwise. I made friends and we explored the sights, made plans to hang out in different neighbourhoods and ventured further afield than our normal work commutes.
I look back fondly on my swing dancing days. I haven’t (officially) given them up but it is certainly some years since I hit the dancefloor. I’m very lucky that my love for swing dancing led to the creation of my company.
Starting out as a ‘hobbypreneur’, Revival Retro was born out of this passion of mine for swing dancing. If you’ve read between the lines you’ll know this is actually a passion for people. A passion for sharing something special, expressing who you are and what you enjoy. A passion for finding confidence and being able to recommend something you love to someone else who might enjoy it.
Lover of beautiful things and amazing people. Explorer and Entrepreneur. This is my independent shop, whether you visit our London boutique or browse our online offering it is my vision that our wonderful team is working hard to bring to life.
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