Kneesupland. Gateway to the South.
Kneesupland is located in the east end of Margate (pro. Margit), near the end of the Kentish gyratory. It marks the bifurcation of the bus terminus and the old tramway, although much was destroyed after the Great Sewerage Leak of 1956. It emerged as a popular holiday resort, resounding to the slogan: “Don’t forget your bucket and spade and cossies and all”.
Early postcard. “Wendy and a friend”.
There are two theories regarding the name of Kneesupland. The first was that the town was named after the romantic hero, Thomas Knees, who after raiding and marauding in the north, brought back wealth and prosperity to the region through sales of flat hats and whippets.
The second notion was that the town was named after a local woman, Pint-a-Guinness-a-day-Flo, who started dancing in a new way in 1917. Typically, this involved standing in a large circle with your arms around the person next to you and kicking your knees up. Any location was good for a right old knees-up, and most homes had a piano (pro. piana; Cockney slang. old joanna), so many a knees-up sprung-up in front parlours of the day.
Flo with her father Water Grasmeder circa 1918.
Flo (right) and grand daughter DS106-er Viv Rolfe (left) circa 1982 at a knees-up.
By 1920 knees-up was reported to have gone viral, with Rispanna and Justine Bieber doing knees-ups in their latest videos. But the knees-up didn’t stop there. Following the dance craze was an entire new style of musicianship, orchestration and instrumentation. The development of the “melody spoon” in the late 1920’s, fuelled an entirely new music genre which was to last well into the next millenium and beyond. Below is an early example of “B flat melody spoon”, and you can see the evidence of lasting damage from rampant spoon-playing and tea-time Uri Geller impressions at the dining table, with several indentations to the shaft.
B flat melody spoon, silver-plated- circa 1967, reportedly belonging to DS106-er Viv Rolfe.
The simplicity of the knees-up is often misconstrued, and it has many qualities that distinguishes it from any other dance form. As Hermes Pan once commented:
The knees-up utilizes contrast that keeps the audience interested. At no time are people watching inclined to zone out and go down the pub.
Example of a right old knees-up.
The dance refines the best of angular, curvilinear, consonance and dissonance. Highly ordered, the knees elevate asynchronously in ambidextural discondibularity in time with the contrasting off-beat motifs of the music.
As someone once said:
Use your knees to express your emotions. What are you trying to portray? A simple romance? Relationships to someone in the past? Rheumatism?
Dancing is destroyed. Somebody must do something!
By the 1950’s, dancing as we knew it was utterly destroyed. Dancing was broken. The knees-up took over the dance floors and extended its influence in other areas. Hollywood embraced the knees-up, and the knees-up became part of cultural identity across Europe.
(Left) Fred Astaire with his 1946 Oscar-winning knees-up routine. (Right) Elite knees-up ceremonial unit in Greece.
Best of Cockney-Fusion
Much music epitomises the knees up, none more so than the genre of Cockney Fusion.
Dahn to Margit (YouTube Video by Chas n Dave)
Knees-Up-Medley (SoundCloud by DS106-er)
The future certainly looks bright for Kneesupland. The old sewerage works have now been turned into a shopping centre, and the tram and train lines are now cycle paths. Thanks to the musical and dancing heritage, the area is leading Margate’s bid for City of Culture in 2017. Such local efforts are giving rise to a clean out of the dead pigeons from the fountain in the town centre, planting of petunias in the cemetery, and re-grouting of the toilets near the Station Road dry cleaners.
Long live Kneesupland.