Jazz singer Imogen Banks on moving north, her South Shields roots, and her love of Ella Fitzgerald

Sara Jane Perovic met sophisticated songstress Imogen Banks to discuss all that jazz and her enduring love affair with music and the North East.
Imogen Banks.Imogen Banks.
Imogen Banks.

Vintage jazz singer, Imogen Banks effortlessly exudes a spell-binding sensuality that is as charismatic as it is captivating.

Her stunning image is enhanced by her platinum hair that softly adorns her lustrous eyes and deceptively disguises a character of aesthetic sensitivity and artistic intellect.

Banks is undoubtedly bewitching but lying within is a vulnerability that is what makes her passion for performing so persuasive.

Imogen Banks. All pictures by Jack Lovegrove.Imogen Banks. All pictures by Jack Lovegrove.
Imogen Banks. All pictures by Jack Lovegrove.
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“Now is the time to create. The people have an appetite for culture and the North is such a creative hub – it is full of passion, hard work and authenticity. The future is in the North,” says Imogen, who is also a professional actor and voice over artist.

“I am loving it up North,” she admits, explaining how she fall in love with her Geordie partner, and the seaside town of Tynemouth, where she now resides.

“I adore its unique beauty.”

Her father, a retired mechanical engineer, was born and bred in South Shields and it is here in the North East where Imogen says she has found “greater accessibility to the arts and more respect as a performer”.

Imogen Banks.Imogen Banks.
Imogen Banks.

She said moving from London to Tynemouth in 2019 has been a hugely enlightening experience.

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“I can access work here that is fully funded whereas in London I found many jobs were not-for-profit and underfunded,” she said.

Imogen’s partner, Edwin runs puppetry and street theatre company Theatre Illumiere, and the couple were both hit hard when the pandemic struck shortly after their move north.

Fortunately, Imogen was able to access Government support but she adds: “I still feel that much more can be done to help those working within the arts.”

Imogen Banks.Imogen Banks.
Imogen Banks.

Imogen graduated from the East 15 School of Acting and Royal Academy of Music where she studied acting and musical theatre, so has invested thousands in the creation of her act.

Imogen laments: “I found going to drama school to be a rich man’s game.”

It is Imogen’s love for jazz music that is the preponderant impetus to overcome the obstacles of being a creative throughout such challenging times.

She particularly enjoys the music of Regina Spektor, Diana Krall and Billie Eilish but her strongest influences resoundingly remain the nostalgic nuances of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and her idol Ella Fitzgerald – whose musical arrangements she is particularly drawn to.

“I enjoy the fact that jazz is playful and goes against the rhythm whilst at the same time is heart-breaking with a real sense of authenticity,” she said.

Imogen’s parents told her that when she was three years old she draped herself across a sofa and declared that she wanted to be an actress.

“I couldn’t tell you a time when I wasn’t interested in being on stage,” she said

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Imogen has performed in concert halls, festivals, theatres as well as on TV, but it is her enduring love of jazz music that has remained constant.

“Jazz for me is exciting. It is a way to connect with others by expressing yourself in a way that is so personalised,” she adds.

Imogen said she loves the clothing, hair-styles and make-up of the 1940s – a style she says takes hours to perfect.

Yet she said she also finds the traditional fashion of the golden jazz era very restrictive and is ditching the glamour of the tight-fitting ultra-slim dresses for a more androgynous and chic tuxedo style.

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Currently featuring in the much-anticipated tour of acclaimed dance artist Mathieu Geffre’s The Monocle, set in a 1930s lesbian nightclub in Paris, Imogen encourages people to come and see the show, describing it as ‘exciting, thrilling and titillating’.

You can catch Imogen in The Monocle at Dance City in Newcastle on February 26, and she also has gigs at the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle on March 26 and April 2.

She is also featuring as the voice of the Girl in the Machine by Theatre Space North East, which appeared at The Customs House earlier this month, and has dates lined up at the Gala in Durham on February 19 and Northern Stage in Newcastle on February 25.

For further details regarding Imogen’s forthcoming dates visit her website: www.vintagejazzsinger.com

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