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Ron Hitchins “El Chino”: The Life & Spirit of London’s Flamenco Scene

Chris Gomez

Ron Hitchins, also known as “El Chino” was the life and spirit of the London Flamenco scene during the 60’s, he was also known as “The Flash” by his friends for his ‘outrageous’ coloured t-shirt designs

Many Gibraltarians and people from the Campo de Gibraltar who emigrated to London will remember Ron Hitchins, “El Chino”, who was one of the principal English proponents of flamenco in the Capital.

Ron Hitchins was a man of many talents. Born in London in 1926, he moved to Hackney in the East End at the age of 13. There he set up a market stall, selling coloured shirts at a time when all men wore either white, grey or cream shirts only. He would make his own shirts with very loud patterns and which were considered ‘outrageous’ for the fashion of the time – which lead to his other nickname, given to him by his friends; “The Flash”.

Ron Hitchins El Chino London Flamenco

He thus became one of the architects of 1960’s pop culture and his button-down shirts were worn by the so-called Mods gangs, who travelled in their Vespa motorcycles from all over the country to the East End of London to buy them.

Aside from being a pioneer in the fashion industry, “El Chino” also became a trend setter of the flamenco scene in the metropolis. Having always had a passion for dance, he was particularly attracted to flamenco and was inspired by the virtuoso José Greco.

In a documentary called ‘Ron Hitchins; Made in Hackney’ (released around 4 years ago) Ron said: “I was an all-round dancer, but I was a party dancer. You could be dancing in a coffee bar and someone would say ‘could you come to our house on Saturday? We’re having a party’, and I’d say yes … Either it was in a basement, you know, little ‘dives’ in Soho or you was in a big mansion somewhere.”

By the 1960’s there was a substantial community of Andalucians and Gibraltarians in the city and several clubs and flamenco establishments had opened. Among the most popular was the famous “Casa Pepe” Spanish restaurant in Soho.

Up until his death in November this year, at the age of 94, Ron continued to be active among English flamenco; dancing flamenco up until he was 88 and then filming flamenco.

He was an active member of the “Peña Flamenca de Londres” where the Ron Hitchins flamenco dance prize was highly sought after. Peña Flamenca de Londres described Hitchins as ‘the life and spirit of the London flamenco scene’ and ‘a friend of flamencos all over the world’ and someone who ‘will forever be in our hearts’.

This versatile man was also a sculptor, tailor and ceramicist whose designs are still very much sought after and are considered to be of a high level of originality and quality.

Reach will be publishing a more detailed article on this talented man early in the new year, and we would welcome hearing from anyone from Gibraltar or the Campo de Gibraltar who have met with him / watched one of his performances / have any photographs.

Rest in peace Ron Hitchins – “El Chino”.

Ron Hitchins, also known as “El Chino” was the life and spirit of the London Flamenco scene during the 60’s, he was also known as “The Flash” by his friends for his ‘outrageous’ coloured t-shirt designs

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