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The Golden Jubilee 1952-2002

It's our working jubilee too!

Val Proudfoot
Les Henry
David Conn
Jim Kerr
Jack Shirvell
Tom Griffith
Lesley Eke
Audrey Hawkin
Dai Owen
Jim Dade
Sadie Jefferson
James Finlay
Audrey Hawkin
Click to see interview...
Audrey Hawkin was her own fairy godmother when it came to launching her career as a dance teacher.

When Audrey was 14 and working as a Sunday school teacher, she was asked to teach five little girls to dance for the church production of Cinderella. Audrey had already been cast as the fairy.

"We put on this lovely production and then after the pantomime the Mums came and said 'Audrey would you teach our children how to dance? They've thoroughly enjoyed it and they'd like to continue'."

Audrey in her younger dancing days
So Audrey taught the girls more – at first in the local Baptist church and then in her mother's living room.

Word of the dance troupe's skills soon spread and they began performing for churches, elderly and handicapped groups throughout Birmingham.

"Costumes had to be made out of old curtains and dyed because in those days there weren't the costumes around then that you can get in the shops these days. A lot of them I made – not brilliantly – but they worked and the children liked them."

54 years in the business

The school soon outgrew the family home and a hall was hired for the classes. Audrey also used her middle name to give the school a proper title - the Alison School of Dance.

"It's been going 54 years now and I thoroughly enjoy it," says Audrey. "The children are all different now of course. There's a lot more money about now – they can have more or less what they want in costumes –but I still make a lot of them."

But children who can't afford fancy costumes don't miss out.

"I mainly cater for the children who couldn't afford to do this – they can't afford to go to the top dance schools that charge the earth – although we're a top dance school now! I wanted children to be able to come even if they can't pay."

Audrey thinks the attitudes of parents towards their children has changed over the years.

"The mums used to show more interest than they do now – nowadays they drop the children off, most of them just leave them and pick them up at the end of the session. But we've got some good mums."

All the school's performances raise money for charity. Audrey says the school tries to help every good cause it can. Last year, she was awarded the MBE for her charity work.

When the dance school celebrated its 50th year, pupils and parents organised several parties. But for Audrey, that landmark far from marked the end of her career. The 68-year-old says she's never really seriously thought about retiring.

"I have said to the mums and the other dance ladies: 'I ought to retire, I'm getting on a bit.' They say: 'You can't retire, there'd be no school.' And if the children hear, it's: 'Auntie Audrey you can't! Who will we come to when we've hurt our knee or we've got no shoes?' So I think I'll go on till I'm 103!"

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