Meet Pete & Ann
Our main inspiration for ‘Jingle Bell Brighton Rocks’ and Timeless, Brighton’s first intergenerational music event, is local legend Disco Pete, an elderly raver who has flouted convention and made many people smile with his obvious passion for music and dancing.
Visitors to Brighton and Hove music events and gigs may recall watching a sprightly elderly fellow in a fiery shirt, baseball cap and sunglasses dancing at the front, facing the crowd. His unique dance moves almost look as if he is conducting the audience, he swipes and pats the air with his white gloves, grinning all the while. Disco Pete will dance to anything – hip hop, reggae, Irish jig, electronic, acoustic, swing, brass band, classical – you name it. Pete has been regularly making an appearance at annual events around Sussex for the decades. He stays for the entire duration and he doesn’t touch a drop of booze, it isn’t false highs that keep him going, it is pure beats.
I went to Disco Pete’s flat to chat about his remarkable energy, it’s a veritable treasure trove of talents. He makes art out of driftwood, he collects records, he write poetry, he sketches and he sponsors children in need. He loves the beach, it shapes a lot of the art he creates.
Pete has always loved dancing, he never saw a reason to stop. He says: “Age is immaterial, if you have a talent or hobby, use it – make the most of it, try and inspire others. I love it when little lads copy all my moves. When I’m dancing I’m in a world of my own. Dancing takes you away from life, it’s great for overcoming physical or mental problems. It has excellent health values.”
The novelty of seeing an older person dancing without inhibition obviously strikes a collective chord. This year, a video of a little old lady in a pink coat spontaneously jiving to a street busker’s version of ‘Let’s Twist Again’ on Brighton’s North Street went viral globally, with people exclaiming in delight over her happy abandon. I dare you to watch it without grinning like a goon. In the video it looks like she’s been transported back to the 1960s, when the song first came out. And that’s the beauty of music, it’s like time travel, your favourite song can take you back to the very moment you fell in love with it. We caught up with the star of the video, Ann Shirley Tunstall, who confirmed that she used to go out dancing every night in the ’60s, she says: “Whenever I hear rock ‘n’ roll I just have to get going.”
Watch the multi-talented Ann give us a taster of her powerful voice:
Disco Pete has suffered poor health this year but he hasn’t let it get him down, you may well have seen him out and about, pushing his own wheelchair before him for stability. He marched along with the Pride parade, flanked by flamenco dancers. Our colourful city embraces his tenacious passion for music and many are agreed that we should celebrate everything that Disco Pete raves for. Which is why this September we celebrated with an intergenerational music event, Timeless, in his honour. Why should old people stand in the wings and watch as the young ones have all the fun?
We were delighted to welcome both Disco Pete and Dancing Ann as special guests at Timeless and as stars on our new Christmas charity single ‘Jingle Bell Brighton Rocks’. Let’s bridge this ridiculous age gap and dance together, let’s honour Disco Pete’s legacy: “I get a lot of respect from the young, I very rarely see older people dancing, I suppose they feel embarrassed – I don’t know why. Music is not concerned with age, I’d like to see a lot more people dancing.”