The Kalamazoo Gals


Author John Thomas brings his story of extraordinary women and Gibson’s Banner guitars to WAH17 and asks was Walthamstow Assembly Hall also built by women during the War?

During the years of World War Two, manufacture of the Gibson Banner Guitar was carried out almost exclusively by women, which it is argued gave the highly collectable wartime guitar a unique sound. ‘Kalamazoo Gals’ is the story of the brilliant women who made the guitars.

Author and co-founder of The Buddy Holly Foundation John Thomas showcased the guitar at Walthamstow Assembly Hall as a prelude to the Nighthawks Swing Dance event.

This performance dovetails with current research into Walthamstow Assembly Hall itself, which is renowned for its magical acoustics. Also built during the war –“bombs were falling all around but the music was divine” – was the hall built by women?

In 1944 25,000 women were working in construction. Now a campaign, backed by the Women’s Engineering Society has triggered a hunt to find other civic examples, such as Waterloo Bridge, to which women have contributed without acknowledgement.

Nighthawks and WAH17 invited the audience to sample the delights of this beautiful venue and its reputedly unique acoustic.

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