Trombone players are nearly always northern girls, from the brass band towns, where dads teach their little daughters to tootle wavering first notes on Sunday afternoons in a flush of fondness and post-practice beer. "They just donít seem to exist in the South" Ivy says. In more than 25 years she has had one coloured girl, a singer.
A drummer left her to form her own group of five, and was away for three years. "When she came back she was as thin as a rail and sick with worry. Itís not an easy way of making a living, when youíve got to look after the girls as well as
money. I try not to get too tensed up. All the railway porters know me. They say ĎOh, donít you worry Ivy weíll getíem all on board for vouí. She taps her handbag. "Iíve got an offer to tour South America in here. But Iím not sure about it. Itís a long way to walk back isnít it?"Ivyís hair is auburn and she has a trim, self possessed vitality; it is a distinctly northern personality, the natural frankness not much corrupted into obtrusive showbiz gush. "Let me be mother," she says, pouring coffee and adding with an ironic wistfulness, "as always".There is something of the bold, all-girls-together character of the factory bus or the chorus dressing room about the band. Girls who leave often keep contact for years by letter, and often in sassy style. Ivy quotes from a letter from a singer, gone solo, who says she is doing well in London but thinks "whatís helping me really is my boobies". Sheís 40 round the chest Ivy says. The bands uniform for Jersey was a light and twinkley trouser suit. Ivy says she re-dresses the band four times a year, "and it costs a bomb". She regrets that mini-skirts are not suitable for girls sitting on a bandstand. Even if the clarinets and saxophones were safe from the voyeur, in their place at the front of the stand "there would always be the drummer high up at the back". Other considerations intrude. The band played for ten successive summer seasons in Douglas, Isle of Man. "Very cold in the Villa Marina Gardens." Ivy remembers "I put the girls in woollen suits."
The physical setting of the dance hall has changed hardly at all since ivy first started playing professionally. The West Park Pavilion is white stuccoed on the outside and it has the indispensable crystal ball shimmering up aloft, dead centre above the dance floor. In the first half-hour of the dancing, only the serious couples are in action, swooping and jerking with their elbows up high and their eyes fixed on some mesmerizing object moving high up round the wallsÖ...
Ivy talks in the Channel