Stompin’ at the Savoy*

*Stompin’ at the Savoy is a 1933 jazz standard composed by Edgar Sampson. It is named after the famed Harlem nightspot the Savoy Ballroom in New York City.

From Wikipedia:

“The House of Savoy was the ruling family of Savoy, descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (or “Maurienne”), who became count in 1032. The name Sabaudia evolved into “Savoy” (or “Savoie”). Count Peter (or Piers or Piero) of Savoy (d. 1268) was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, queen-consort of Henry III of England, and came with her to London.

King Henry III made Peter Earl of Richmond and, in 1246, gave him the land between the Strand and the River Thames, where Peter built the Savoy Palace in 1263. Peter gifted the palace and the manor of the Savoy to the Congregation of Canons of the Great Saint Bernard, and the palace became the “Great Hospital of St Bernard de Monte Jovis in Savoy”. The manor was subsequently purchased by Queen Eleanor, who gave the site to her second son, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. Edmund’s great-granddaughter, Blanche, inherited the site. Her husband, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, built a magnificent palace that was burned down by Wat Tyler’s followers in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. King Richard II was still a child, and his uncle John of Gaunt was the power behind the throne, and so a main target of the rebels.

In about 1505, Henry VII planned a great hospital for “pouer, nedie people”, leaving money and instructions for it in his will. The hospital was built in the palace ruins and licensed in 1512. Drawings show that it was a magnificent building, with a dormitory, dining hall and three chapels. Henry VII’s hospital lasted for two centuries, but suffered from poor management. The sixteenth-century historian Stow noted that the hospital was being misused by “loiterers, vagabonds and strumpets”. In 1702, the hospital was dissolved, and the hospital buildings were used for other purposes. Part of the old palace was used as a military prison in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the old hospital buildings were demolished, and new buildings were erected.

In 1864, a fire burned everything except the stone walls and the Savoy Chapel. The property sat empty until the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte bought it in 1880, to build the Savoy Theatre specifically for the production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, of which he was the producer.”

From the website Create London:

“Taking inspiration from the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, over 200 young people from east London produced a unique event at the Savoy Hotel’s Lancaster Ballroom.

Liberties of the Savoy, the winning project of the 2012 edition of the Create Art Award, took the historical area once known as the Precinct of The Savoy in central London as its starting point. Young people were mentored over a two-month period to gain new skills, which allowed them to programme their own event in the Lancaster Ballroom at The Savoy.

Ruth Ewan paired creative mentors with particular schools (including Thomas Tallis School), and each school was charged with organising one aspect of the final event. The mentors involved in the project included Martin Chiffers, Executive Pastry Chef at The Savoy; Lucy Woods, Music Promoter at Eat Your Own Ears record label; and Patrick Lacey from graphic design studio Abake. Lesson plans were devised by mentors in conversation with the artist and teachers, and aimed to develop key practical skills required to organise a large event, as well as asking young people to reflect on a key moment in the Capital’s history.

The project culminated in a celebratory event on 17 July 2012 when the young people were granted ‘Liberties of the Savoy’ for one afternoon. The Lancaster Ballroom was given exclusively to the participants and was covered by BBC London news. Permanent documentation of the project takes the form of a book co-published by Create London and Book Works; and also a documentary film, screened at the Barbican in late October 2012.

Liberties of the Savoy was the winner of the 2012 Create Art Award, supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It was produced by Frieze Foundation and was presented as part of Frieze Projects East.

The Create Art Award was the largest participatory art award in the UK. In its six years, it helped artists living or working in east London to deliver socially engaged projects and in doing so, provided significant opportunities for artists to work with their neighbours. The successful applicant received up to £40,000 to deliver the project.”

From The Independent of 15.12.2007:

“…the management has tried to keep the hotel’s arts tradition alive. In 2002, it appointed the novelist and playwright Fay Weldon to be the hotel’s first writer in residence.

“I think they did it to bolster the image of the Savoy as a literary place,” she says, “but it has ceased to be a literary place, if only because writers don’t make enough money to stay there.” Weldon, whose grandfather, the writer Edgar Jepson, frequented the Savoy in the 1920s, was given a room with a view of the Thames worth 350 a night, plus breakfast (but not the minibar) for three months while she wrote her latest book.

“It was so comfortable that I didn’t do any work at all,” she says. “I just watched Kilroy. The mattresses and the pillows were completely amazing. I had the most comfortable sleep I have ever had.” Unlike (Howard) Jacobson, Weldon is tempted to join the Savoy sale, if only to snap up her favourite bed, but calls it “sad” that so much of the Savoy’s heritage is being sold. “But I do think it has to develop its own history for the 21st century,” she says. “The passing of something is always sad but pass it must. And hotels get a bit grubby, don’t they?” “.

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