October 9th, 2015


Croydon Airport Calling Josephine Baker

Last night I went to a talk organised by the Croydon Airport Society at the Museum of Croydon.

Josephine Baker was a singer and dancer from the USA who took Paris by storm in the 1920s. When the Croydon Airport Society turned up a striking photo of her landing at Croydon in 1928, they contacted historian Gemma Romain to bring the full story to light.

Baker had been asked to take part in a charity performance for flood victims (an 'all-coloured revue' also featuring other black stars of the day), but declined due to other commitments and a sprained ankle. A special flight was chartered to whisk her from Le Bourget to Croydon, so she went from asleep in her Paris flat to the West End stage in something like three hours. The papers loved the story, and the performance was a massive success.

As well as this tale, I learned about ethnic communities in interwar London and about the Thames Flood of 1928. A nice tailpiece is that Baker took her own pilot's licence eight years later.

It was my first visit to the museum, but I found it easily, and there was indeed motorcycle parking a stone's throw away (thanks, nou!). Unfortunately, when I tried to leave I got sucked into the one-way system and spent several minutes travelling in the wrong direction without a damn thing I could do about it. And this is why I hate Croydon.

When I'd managed to extract myself I went to IKEA, because the word on the street was that they were selling large, cuddly huskies. And they were.
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