Queensbury performing arts school celebrates diamond anniversary

A black and white photo of former students of Beverley School from the 1960s.

Beverley School of Dancing, now known as Beverley School of Performing Arts, in 1964. - Credit: Beverley School of Performing Arts

A Brent performing arts school is celebrating its 60th anniversary, honouring the contributions and achievements of students, staff and the woman who set it up all those years ago. 

Beverley School of Performing Arts (BSPA), previously known as Beverley School of Dancing, was founded by Vivien Batchelder on January 11, 1961.

For over half a century, classes have been taught out of the same Methodist church hall in Queensbury and the school's founder, known to her young students by her maiden name Ms Pear, has led classes. The 83-year-old has even begun hosting dance sessions on Zoom to reach her students during the pandemic. 

Dancers dancing at the Beverley School

BSPA teaches many different forms of performing arts to young people aged three and up. - Credit: Nick Corre Photography

Former principal Vivien told the Gazette: "I have had many students that have gone on to be in ballet companies, on television and cruise ships. 

"One of my girls is now in All Creatures Great and Small - she plays the part of Mrs Hall.  Another one is in the Royal Shakespeare Company and another is ballet mistress at the Royal Ballet School.

"So I'm very proud of all my pupils. I'm proud of the ones who didn’t actually go into the theatre because I feel I taught them a love of dance and I’m proud of the way the school is because the teachers are outstanding and [principal] Ruth Goodwin is running it so well."

Vivien started her first classes at the school on Beverley Drive after she became aware there wasn't a place for young people to learn dance in the area. She was teaching in Borehamwood at the time.

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She did four classes on the first day for different age groups. Three of the classes taught ballet and one tap.

"I had 51 pupils on the first day," Vivien said. 

"My parents and I had been round putting leaflets through letterboxes the week before and each class was two and sixpence.

"They used to pay weekly, I had a pianist for all four classes and the school has just grown from there."

Photo of Vivien Batchelder at the dance school with her hands on her hips.

Founder and former principal of Beverley School of Performing Arts, Mrs Vivien Batchelder, known to her students as Ms Pear. - Credit: Nick Corre Photography

Now, the school also offers classes in modern, contemporary, drama, musical theatre, jazz, singing, street dance and other forms of performing arts for boys and girls aged three and up. 

Vivien said she has witnessed the changing demographics of the area's communities through her students, who "have all been lovely". 

She says she is known as Ms Pear because her married name, Mrs Batchelder, proved too long and difficult for some of the younger children to pronounce. 

"So I've stayed Ms Pear forever," she said. 

"I have been called Ms Banana and Ms Peach sometimes."

Two ballet dancers train.

Ballet was one of the first forms of dance taught at the school. In 2009, due to popular demand, singing and street dance were added to the curriculum along with jazz and drama in 1999. - Credit: Nick Corre Photography

Despite being an octogenarian, Vivien is still active in the school and coaches the children for ballet exams to make sure "they are up to scratch so that they get good marks".

She has also started hosting Zoom lessons and even taking part in dance classes hosted by the Royal Academy for people over 55. 

The dance teacher hoped to celebrate the 60th anniversary with a limited group of her students but the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions in the third lockdown meant the party has been postponed, along with an anniversary show planned for July 24.

Current principal at BSPA, Ruth Goodwin, has been collecting memories from former students to create an online book recording the school's rich history, available for the school's alumni.

She has also made one physical copy to be sent to Vivien, who she said is a "fantastic dance teacher" who has "brought so much joy to so many people's lives". 

Ruth has taught at the school for more than 20 years and took over as principal in 2013. She told the Gazette: "We have had whole families come through this school. It's a place where people come and they become a family unit within the BSPA family. They make close friends and those friends stay with them all through life.

"A dance friend is for life."

Visit www.beverleydance.co.uk for more information. 

Young students learn ballet.

Baby ballet taught at Beverley School. - Credit: Nick Corre Photography

Vivien Batchelder teaches a young student ballet.

Vivien Batchelder, also known as Ms Pear, continued to teach at the school. - Credit: Beverley School of Performing Arts

Students dancing at the Beverley School of Performing Arts. 

Students dancing at the Beverley School of Performing Arts. - Credit: Nick Corre Photography

A black and white photo of former students of Beverley School from the 1960s.

Beverley School of Dancing, now known as Beverley School of Performing Arts, in 1964. - Credit: Beverley School of Performing Arts

A plaque with the Beverley School logo and additional information.

The Beverley School of Performing Arts was established in 1961. - Credit: Beverley School of Performing Arts

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