Neil Oram in conversation with David Eastaugh
In 1956 Oram traveled to Africa where he met musician Mike Gibbs in Salisbury, (now Harare). He played double bass in the Mike Gibbs Quintet with Gibbs on piano, vibes and trombone. A post-concert epiphany where a voice repeatedly told him "Je suis un poet!" led him to take up writing. Oram returned to Britain in 1958 where he ran a jazz café called The House of Sam Widges at 8 D'Arblay Street in Soho, London.The café was known for its jukebox which only had modern jazz records. It attracted many of the top London musicians. Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Graham Bond, Dave Tomlin and Bobby Wellins were frequent customers, occasionally enjoying a bowl of spaghetti bolognese crafted by Oram. Downstairs was a club/performance space called 'The Pad'.
Oram was now writing poetry, giving readings and painting large abstract jazz inspired paintings. In 1960 he opened The Mingus art gallery in Marshall Street, Soho where abstract paintings by O. G. Bradbury, George Popperwell, Jaime Manzano, Tony Shiels and William Morris the American beat poet/action painter could be seen. Morris's huge, jazz paintings were executed in The Pad to the vibrant sounds of the Graham Bond Quartet, then carried round the corner and hung up wet in The Mingus.