"WE'RE not here to pretend we are Cajuns," says Chris Hall, of R Cajun and the Zydeco Brothers. "We just love the music and that's what people come to hear. You'll see punks, hippies, bikers and OAPs at the club because the music speaks to everybody."

Thanks to the Swamp Club in Derby, and a group of local bands like Chris's, who can pull in 1,200 people to their gigs, the spirit of the Louisiana Cajuns is alive and well in the deepest Midlands. Preparations are well underway for the Swamp Club Cajun and Zydeco Festival 1996, in two weeks time. So what is it about Cajun culture, music, and food that makes Derby dance?

Terry Milner, 50, known as "The Cheese Man" because the Derby cheese shop he used to own became a Cajun gig ticket office, says: "The music grabs you by the short and curlies - I can dance for three-and-a-half hours solid. I've travelled 700 miles in the last week to gigs up and down the country."

Helen Murray, 32, likes the music but loves the food. "It's got such an outdoors taste to it. You know the way eating fish and chips in the fresh air makes them taste better? Cajun cooking does that for everything!"

In the five years since the Swamp Club started grabbing the crowds, about a dozen more Cajun venues have sprung up round the counry - from the Manchester Cajun Club to Deep South in Southampton - and a new radio series called Cajun Clubhouse starts on Wednesday (Radio 2) with live music and a cookery spot by a Louisiana chef. As the Cheese Man says: "With loads of Louisiana bands beginning to come over here it's really exciting for Cajun fans. We've got the Derby festival to keep us going this month. And if I'm lucky there'll soon be enough gigs around the UK to keep me travelling all week."

8 Further information: the Swamp Club Cajun and Zydeco Festival 1996, with gigs, food, dance, and music workshops, from Thursday 28 - Sunday 31 March (Tel 01332 332336).