Vernon & Veronica Ashley

Vernon and Veronica Ashley live in Little Witley and have been the driving force behind hundreds of jazz events at Little Witley Village Hall over the last 35 years. The Hall was known affectionately as ‘The Black Chicken Hut’ in its earlier days.

Humphrey Lyttleton & Zenith Hot Stompers_Little Witley_1989 to 1996Little Witley burst on to the jazz scene on May 1st 1981 with a gig featuring the Zenith Hot Stompers who have returned to perform at the Hall for no fewer than 33 occasions. Since 1981, a total of 87 different bands from the UK, Europe, the USA and various European countries have appeared at Little Witley Village Hall on well over 300 occasions.

Vernon and Veronica Ashley have booked all the bands, done the pre-event publicity, manned the box office and, at the events, provided the renowned Little Witley ploughman’s supper. They have also organised teams of villagers to staff the kitchen, the bar and the car park. Vernon and Veronica have frequently used their own home to provide bed and breakfast for up to seven musicians at a time!

Ashley_Veronica introducing Kenny Ball_Little Witley_1999
Veronica Ashley introduces the band.

In its heyday during the 1990s and the early 2000s the jazz club hosted monthly events and drew audiences from throughout the Midlands and further afield. Such was Little Witley Jazz’s popularity that international celebrities such as Humphrey Littleton and Kenny Ball appeared on the club’s programme.

The last jazz club event took place in 2015 and featured (another long-term favourite at Little Witley – Sammy Rimington’s International Band) but there are plans in the pipeline for a celebration of jazz in Little Witley in the New Year in 2017.

In this recording, Vernon & Veronica describe how the how the club came about and their memories since the club was formed.

Vernon & Veronicas recording: Ashley_Vernon&Veronica_20150505_1_3 (34 mins 49 secs)

Start Topic Period
00:24 Origins of Little Witley Jazz Club 1981
01:15 Zenith Hot Stompers – first act 1981
02:07 Meeting up with jazz bands 1981-2015
02:26 Audience composition 1981-2015
03:04 Catering at Jazz events 1981-2015
03:38 Dancing at jazz events 1981-2015
03:52 Band from Argentina post-Falklands 1982
04:14 Process of booking bands for the club 1981-2015
04:30 Arranging jazz festivals and tours 1970s
04:52 Upton Jazz Festival 1990-2015
05:15 Jazz band from California 1990s
05:40 Sammy Rimington Band 1970s
06:11 Waterworks Jazz Club, Birmingham 1981-2015
06:35 Accommodation for Jazz bands 1981-2015
08:09 Humphrey Littleton 1990s
08:33 Kenny Ball 1990s
09:00 Staffing Jazz Club events 1981-2015
09:24 Financial contribution to Village Hall 1981-2015
09:50 Costs of booking bands/pricing of events 1981-2015
10:00 Acoustics in Little Witley Village Hall 1981-2015
10:35 Humphrey Littleton 1990s
11:04 Carnival band in Little Witley 1990s
11:32 Planning Jazz Club events 1981-2015
12:00 Time commitment of Vernon and Veronica Ashley 1981-2015
12:30 Problems at events / power cuts 1981-2015
13:05 No-show band 1990s
13:46 Stories about jazz musicians 1981-2015
15:00 Dutch bands 1981-2015
15:54 Ageing jazz band members 1981-2015
16:20 Other jazz clubs in the area 2015
17:47 Arranging jazz holidays/tours 1990s/2000s
19:40 Visiting New Orleans 2000s
20:05 Jazz tours to Italy 2000s
21:00 Logistics of arranging tours 1990s/2000s
21:33 Visiting New Orleans 2000s
22:22 Ashley’s tent at Upton 2000s
22:47 Winding down of tours 2010
23:12 Other music holiday firms 2000s
23:31 Winding down of commitments 2010s
23:37 Jazz bands closing down 2000s
24:45 Dancing to and meeting Bill Haley 1970s
25:40 Favourite bands: Sammy Rimington, Tommy Burton, Blue Magnolia Band, Phil Mason 1981-2015
27:52 Trad Jazz in the 1960s 1960s
28:36 Future of Little Witley Jazz Club 2014-
29:21 Impact on Little Witley community life 1981-2015
30:10 Profitability of Little Witley Jazz Club 1981-2015
30:52 Cancellation of events 2000s
31:52 Experience of jazz gigs around the world 1981-2015
32:32 Holidays in Hawaii 2000s
33:15 Ashleys move to Little Witley 1971
33:30 Vernon Ashley’s working career 1960-2000
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