Swingin’ Christmas show heads to Eastbourne

The Len Phillips Swing Orchestra bring their Swingin’ Christmas show to Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre on December 12.

Louise Cookman
Louise Cookman

It will feature singers Gary Williams, star of the West End’s Rat Pack, and Louise Cookman, who has performed with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, with the BBC Big Band for Radio 2’s Big Band Special and with The Glenn Miller Orchestra UK.

Louise, who lives just along the coast in Kent, is delighted to be returning to Eastbourne.

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“I just love it there! Out-of-season seaside places are my favourite.

“And it is going to be a great show, everybody’s favourite Christmas tunes played by a fabulous big band and to my mind that’s the most Christmassy thing of all, big band music.

“It taps into what we all remember from when we were young, light entertainment on TV, the Morecambe and Wise show and things like that. We used to see big bands all the time and it reminds us of when we were children.

“And I think it is just such exciting music. You’ve got a band with 17 people and all of the musicians are at the top of their game. They play for many sessions and bands and West End shows and you have got 17 of the greatest musicians in the country and they have all come together to make this an amazing sound.

“Normally it will start with the band doing some instrumentals and then Gary will come on and sing a couple of songs and go off and then I will come on and sing a couple of songs and go off and then we will have a duet. There is a lot of variety and none of it is obscure. It is just a complete programme of the Christmas music that you know and love.

“I started singing with the Len Phillips Swing Orchestra I think it was a year before Covid hit and it was really exciting to be starting singing with the band and then everything ground to a halt and that was a great shame. I had my fingers crossed that when everything came back they would ring me again and they have.

“When we were in lockdown Joe Pettitt who runs the band worked so hard to get live stream events happening and we were the first big band to do that. The moment the restrictions lifted enough and we were allowed to go on stage, we did, two metres apart and with the audience distanced. We were in a field at a farm and the sound was just wonderful and everyone was so excited.

“The lockdown was awful. It was really, really awful partly because that’s your income gone completely. A lot of people had to take on other jobs and that was really bad but the worst thing was that as musicians and as creative people it is your identity, it is who you are. It is not just a job that you do. It makes up who you are and it’s what makes you tick and to have that taken away from you for a long time just felt like losing a limb really. And that’s why there was this great proliferation of online things that people were doing. It’s not the same, but it was something and that was really important.”

Members of the band have worked with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Mercury, Mancini to Noel Gallagher and Robbie Williams.