End of an era as dance academy closes

Reporter: Karen Doherty
Date published: 22 February 2016

PEOPLE came from across Manchester to pay an emotional farewell to Oldham dance academy Billingtons, which has closed after 82 years.

Scores of well-wishers — young and old — packed into the Ascroft Street studio for its last dance on Saturday night. They included past and present pupils keen to pay tribute to much-loved Moorside couple Dennis and Brenda Massey, who have retired after running the ballroom for almost 46 years.

Susan Catterall (45), who has been a pupil for 40 years, enjoyed a dance with five-year-old daughter Freya.

She said: “It’s really emotional. It’s a really good, social dance school and Dennis and Brenda are more like a mum and dad than teachers. I’ve grown up here and I’m not thinking about what I am going to do. There are other schools out there but this is one of the oldest and I don’t think they will be a patch on this.”

Grenville Garnes (80) has been a regular for 41 years and was saying farewell with his son and daughter, Diane and Steve, who both had lessons at the academy when they were young.

“It’s very sad — I’ve brought a box of tissues,” he said: “It is just a fantastic place; it doesn’t matter if you are married or single, you are welcomed with open arms. There are a few dance schools in the area. I am going to give it a rest for a bit and then make my mind up on which one I prefer, but I am not going to stop dancing!”

Dennis and Brenda said they were overwhelmed by the turn-out after the event was posted on Facebook.

Pupils at the academy before taking over the business, they have not talked about what they are going to do in their retirement. But Dennis said: “We are sad to be finishing. It is like a family and we have a lot of happy memories.”