Julie Burriss and Christine Griffiths met over 20 years ago through their love of Salsa – they couldn't get enough of Latin music and danced 'til dawn! Now in their late 50s, both have retired and were wondering what to do with their time – so what better than to put together and manage a Cuban Dance band! The two friends are known as the 'Salsa Grannies', and they want to fly the flag for all older people who want to start a business in later life. Their new band, called “Son Con Swing”, is made up of nine talented young Cuban musicians who are starting to make a name for themselves on the Latin dance scene in London and farther afield.
Julie, who spent her career in the gaming industry, says “We are old enough to be our musicians' grannies but inside of course we still feel like we are 16 and we still like to dance – just not as long or as energetically as we could in our younger days! We have always loved Cuban music and still visit Cuba every year where two old birds throwing themselves about on the dance floor is a bit of a novelty!”
Christine, who until last year was a Vice Principal at a Further Education College, commented “ We get some strange looks when we tell people what we do! Looks that say 'Shouldn't you be knitting tea cosies and playing bingo??'
But older people have lots of experience and resources and not only is it good for myself and Julie, we are also helping young people to further their careers. In this economy where full time jobs are scarce, setting up in business and being self employed is sometimes the only option. I think we “wrinklies” – many of whom seem to have amassed a lot of the country's resources while young people are struggling – have a duty to try to help the next generation. The list of skills you need to run a business like this is endless – accounts (and taxes!), sales and on-line marketing, music production etc etc – and young people need older people to help them to acquire these skills to become entrepreneurs themselves.
We would encourage all older people who have time on their hands to use their myriad skills and experience to try to run a business – you can contact organisations that helped us like PRIME, which is Prince Charles' charity equivalent for older people to the Prince's Trust for younger people. We live by the adage - getting over the hill just means that you have to pick up speed on the way down!”
The Salsa Grannies' band, Son Con Swing, is playing at the Floridita Restaurant, 100 Wardour Street, W1 on 15 November and 20 December. The first 25 guests on each night get a free Son Con Swing CD!