Dance, music and fabulous fashion. ANGHARAD WILLIAMS went to discover the rockabilly scene in Gwent through the people that are living proof that rock and roll continues to survive.

MUSIC and fashion can have a huge impact on people’s lives, and across the region people have embraced the rockabilly lifestyle.

Rock and roll and rockabilly are terms people are familiar with, but what people might not know is that it is much more than the music of Elvis or big skirts and greased back hair.

Rockabilly is a type of music that fuses elements of rhythm and blues and country music which was first known as country-boogie style. Today it’s a term used for music, a style and even a culture.

Rock and roll and rockabilly music are closely linked. Most fans, like Roy Wassall from Cwmbran, enjoy both and everything that comes with the scene.

“Personally I don’t think they’re separate,” he says.

“I think rock and roll comes in many different guises. A lot of people would class the rockabilly as rock and roll’s hillbilly cousin, but then you have other aspects like jive, swing doo-wop and rhythm and blues. I think they all come under the same umbrella, but they are all different variations.”

It’s a style that is alive and well in homes and social clubs across Gwent.

“I’ve been on the scene for the best part of 40 years,” Mr Wassall added.

“When I was about 12 you had bands coming out in the charts like Stray Cats and Matchbox and it was this exciting sound that I had never heard before and I just got into it.

“I then found there were other like-minded people in Cwmbran and we started going to rock and roll dances around the area.

“We used to go to Newport, the furnace site in Aberdare, up to Ebbw Vale and Merthyr Tydfil and places like that. There was always a good rocking scene. Now there’s also the Welsh rockabilly weekender and it’s getting bigger and bigger, so it’s a good thing.”

Mr Wassall loves all things to do with the scene.

He explained: “You stick a rock and roll or rockabilly song on and you can’t help but feel the beat. The atmosphere in the dances are always friendly. I love the clothes, the cars, the whole aspect of the 50s lifestyle.”

One of the highlights for any rockabilly or rock and roll lover are the dances which are held across the country. The Newport Rock n Roll Club at the Royal British Legion is one of the most popular where live bands often play attracting people from the region and beyond.

More dances have begun in Gwent, with JS Jive in Goytre being one of the most recent additions to the scene.

Mia Beechey from Machen teaches jive dancing at the popular Valley Jive classes in Llanbradach. They offer weekly classes as well as regular dances with live bands.

She first got involved in the burlesque scene and was a performer, then that grew into an interest in all things vintage and that led to jive dances.

“I found Valley Jive and a few years later I’m teaching,” she explains. “I loved it from the first time I stepped in. It’s a very friendly scene.

“A few people asked us if we could teach them some of the dances, so we started with a handful of people and it’s grown and grown.

“All the money we make from the classes we put towards putting bands on, so we do it to keep people rocking and keep jive alive.

“Lots of people have learnt dance and come back every week, and they have a social circle and all meet up and go to dances. We have lots of different people coming, and we do teach a mixture of styles and try to bring everyone together.

“We do demonstrations for people and we need to get more people to come to classes and join the scene and keep it going really.”

Mr Wassall once competed in jive competitions, and although he doesn’t dance as much as he used to he still enjoys going to the dances.

“I won competitions when I was younger,” he said.

“I won a weekender down in Brean Sands at a weekender event when I was in my 20s. I still have a little bop, but I prefer to watch the bands these days.

“I learnt to dance by watching people. There are classes now, but things like that weren’t available when I first started on the scene. It was just a case of watching people jiving and picking up the moves as you went along. Just practice, practice, practice.”

In recent years the rockabilly look of the 1950s has creeped into mainstream fashion thanks to musicians like Imelda May and has been embraced by the likes of Rihanna, Katy Perry and even Justin Bieber.

Vintage and 50s style outfits can be found in high street stores, but for more range and authenticity a number of shops in the region stock rockabilly clothes such as dresses, shirts and jackets.

One of the most recent additions is Rockabella’s in Griffithstown which is owned by Amy Packwood. She sells vintage and rockabilly clothes in her shop, but also offers hair styles which would have been the height of fashion in the 40s and 50s.

People travel from across south Wales to visit the shop and she also operates pop-up shops at festivals around the UK.

“I’ve been into the rockabilly scene for about seven years,” she said. “I don’t profess to know all the bands but I love rockabilly music.

“I opened the shop in April this year and I stock rockabilly brands.

“People have embraced us and I’ve had nothing but positive feedback.

“I was doing mobile hair styling for quite a while, but my main reason for opening the shop was having a place where people could come in and try the clothes because there aren’t many places where you can do this, get their hair done and even have a photoshoot. I wanted it to be a one stop shop for people.”

Miss Packwood has her own unique style and it’s something people always notice.

“I can’t go anywhere,” she laughed. “People say to me that they love my look and that it’s fantastic. I’m getting my hair done in rainbow colours next week, I’m always having something different.”

Ms Beechey is also fond of the fashion element. She said: “I make a lot of my own clothes, things like the full bouncy skirts and the pencil skirts. I love the pin-up style.”

As well as people who come for themed nights or birthday celebrations, Ms Packwood says she has met a lot of people who love rockabilly and rock and roll from across Gwent and further afield.

“People come from Cwmbran and Pontypool come to the shop and they all love it. We also have people coming from places like Bridgend and Cardiff.

“Since I’ve opened the shop I get people coming in saying they go to the nights at the Legion in Newport on Thursday. Lots of people know each other and they recommend me to their friends.”

Mr Wassall says that anyone who wants to come and check out the scene should research local rock and roll nights online. He explained that anyone new will always be welcomed.

“It’s a very vibrant scene and a positive scene,” he said. “If someone wanted to come to a dance for the first time the people will always make them feel welcome and encourage them. The ultimate aim of the rock and roll crowd is to keep the music alive.”

To find out more about Valley Jive visit For more information about Rockabella’s visit