Gemma Nash: Artist

Using sound to reimagine stories about people, places and objects

The quips – week two

Gareth and I are half way through the second week of The Quips semi-virtual residency and at Wakefield Art House. 

Nighthalks and a new fangled radio

I came across a little story during my research which intrigued me. It was from the Chicago Tribune in 1929.  The Tribune was interviewing a Kansas City jazz band called the Nighthawks. The band often played on the radio late at night.

Picture of The Nighthawks Jazz Band, 1930s

The Nighthawks talked about their most devoted fan – a “crippled woman” living in the “far north”.  This woman had apparently been shut-in in a frozen wilderness, for twenty-six years.  Her only contact was that of her husband, a trapper. On one journey to civilization he purchased a new fangled radio set for her.

One of the first things she managed to tune into was the Nighthawks and their infamous swashbuckling parties.  She fell in love with their music and sent fan mail to the musicians by post – a touching contrast of old and new media. 

“Some months later, by many stages of dog team, came her exultant letter, and thereafter she was their heroine, serenaded and greeted every night over the thousands of frozen miles.”

extract from the nighthawks interview, Chicago Tribune 1929
Copy of an article about the Spanish Flu from the Chicago Tribune, 1918

I love the idea that this woman, many miles away, became their heroine. Demonstrating that human connection can be found in many different ways.

Certainly during lockdown many of us managed to find connections and small joys in the face of extreme loneliness.

I also wondered whether she became disabled during the 1918 Pandemic “The Spanish Flu”? (Picture on the right is a snippet of an article about “The Spanish Flu” in the Chicago Tribune).

Submissions and Practicalities

Gareth and I have had some wonderful submissions so far, particularly from the Wakefield/Leeds area.  We have also been arranging interviews and planning the practicalities of working together in person – including covid risk assessments.

As well as the equipment we need, one of my priorities has been organising Personal Assistants for the week.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to arrange staff for working away from home.   It occurred to me that non-disabled people have so much less extra things to think about!  But I’m privileged to live in a time and age where I can once more work away from home (albeit within limitations).

Looking forward to being in Wakefield next week. Enjoy Nighthawks – Flamin’ Mamie, 1925.

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