Looking back over 40 years of the
Every promoter is nervous about his event, especially the first, and has to overcome many many problems, so many things can go wrong. The venue, the organising , financing, when you go to any competition please don't take it for granted, it doesn't just happen ! someone has worked at it. When you arrive at the "Staffordshire" you will be walking in to a unique part of competitive dancing history. From the beginning, finding a new venue, format, and the search to be a little different was a challenge. No one knew of the first venue "Stychfield Hall" so Alan's first job in the earlier days was to get up very early and Nail bright Orange direction signs on walls and trees that lined the route, - helping myself to a few Flowers and Tree branches on the way - to dress the stage. Now take Trophies, expensive, some that you will see today are still the original trophies, the very large shields you see were made by myself in our spare bedroom, made from the mahogany tops of Beer Tables taken after searching for Pubs that were closing down or being refurbished. The dust upstairs - you can imagine the stick I got from Maureen. Many of the silver cups and smaller shields bear the names of dancers that are now household names in our world of dance!! Yes, over the years, Promoting can be just as exciting as Dancing!
Yes it's now over 40 years ago that we treked around our county looking for a suitable venue and discovered "Stychfield Hall" Stafford. Stychfield then played host to the "Staffordshire" until 1985 when, at the invitation of the Lord Mayer, we moved to the King's Hall, Stoke-on-Trent, where it has stayed to this present day. The Staffordshire Amateur Ballroom Championship Silver Cup - dating back to 1943.(76 years) was traced, resurrected and continued.
Over the years the "Staffordshire" has witnessed many changes , and not only in the competitive scene, but also with the individual competitors. Looking back through the records, searching through the thousands of entry forms saved throughout the years and looking at the results, not only the major Championships,the but also the Staffordshire trophy events , you see combinations of names that are not as we know them today, it's like taking a walk through the Danceworld Museum.
Marcus and Karen Hilton MBE, as latin Champions,(also World) believed their ovation in life fell in the Latin section - how were they to know what lay head. While Gaynor Fairweather MBE in the earlier years of the Ballroom Championship looked striking in ballroom with David Adamson. Donnie Burns MBE had no doubt at all where his future lay, although he did try ballroom once. As did Sammy Stopford. Anne Lewis with James McKechan, latin winners 1980, also thought she was destined for a Latin career. The same year as Anne won the latin John Wood and Julie Sohl won the Ballroom championship - What a wonderful combination was to develop a little later. Christopher Hawkins won the Latin Trophy with Valerie Hobden, but at the time I think he knew he was going to be better at Ballroom, as did a young Timothy Howson with Julie Ann Sinclare Latin, Alan Shingler, first with Lisa Gossling in Junior Latin, ending with Donna Reeve in Amateur Ballroom 93. Andrew Sinkinson and Lorraine Barry 84, Stephen Hannah and Lorraine Heeks 80 and again in the professional event with Connie Schyberg 91 & 92. Lyne Marriner final of the juvenile ballroom in 87 then winning the professional purse with Scott Draper in 90 and 93. , It seems everyone has danced at the Staffordshire in all grades - there is no easy way to the top, . Bennett, Darren and Dale never missed the Staffordshire from Juveniles, to Amateur, Draper, there's always been a Draper at the Staffordshire, two of them Scott and Craig, ( perhaps three counting the early years of the Amateur Championship) oophs!, you can read all their dancing history from their results in juvenile, junior, amateur through to professional at the back of the Staffordshire programme.
Mark Lunn and Julie Frier amateur Latin champions 88 then again with Karen Hardy in 91. David and Helen Trueman 86 latin Champions. Ian Waite and Melane Walker 87 Ballroom and Latin Youth Champions. The first entry form of Rachel Heron was in 95 with Rory Cooper, after which she didn't miss a Staffordshire with Evgenii Smagin. Vise, Bullock, Prouton, Lichfield , Haywood to name but a few, the list seems endless. Paul McCann (what are dancing family) and Victoria Martin 94, Julie Armstrong dancing with Barry Fitzpatrick became the1983 youth champion and in the same year Peter Jones(E,A,D,A,) made his mark with Julie Embury. . Simon Cruwys and Lucille Bassitt youth winners 87. Stephen Syson and Kylie Jones from 89, with Kylie to reappear with Jonathan Crossley as Ballroom Champions in 95, Mark Richardson and Tina Flipping 79 Latin Champions. Paula Graves a winning Latin combination with Richard Porter in 81 and again with Neal Oliver in 87. Kevin and Joane Cliffton danced together as juveniles 92 & 93 Fyn O'Grady and Julie Longhurst, Philip Starling and Andrea Davis. The list just goes on.(my apologies to those left out)
The "Staffordshire Senior Championship" , many of the later Champions can be found in the earlier years like Daryl and Tricia Leung winning the open intermediate Latin 96, and Chris and Ann Freeman winning the open intermediates Ballroom. David and Mary Corfield danced at the very first Staffordshire 79 and still dance there today. Remember Danny Dyke and Sue Mold - if there was a grade they danced in it. John and Irene Lamb were the first Staffordshire senior Ballroom Champions 79,80 & 81. Ricky and Doreen Simkins the first Latin champion 79. They were all there, Alan and Jill Rawlings, Colin and Janet Mansbridge, David and Marjorie Da Costa, Jim and Kathy Turkington, David and Pat Roberts, Sat Estenage and Janet Morgan, John and Silvia Lyons, Fred and Marina Lyons, Tony and Margaret Long to name but a few.
The Staffordshire Amateur Ballroom Championship dates back to 1943, F, Morrison and E. Lawless from Blackpool were the first winners and in43 with Ron Elliot and Dena Davies from Derby in 44. The names go through the years, notably some Reg and Betty Skelson, Ray and Sheila Moore, Graham and Betty Tranter, George and Carole Smythe, Alan and Maureen Ford. Davied Sycamore and Denise Weavers were the last to win in 1974 until it was resurrected in 1979.
There have been many memorable "Staffordshires".
In 1984 it played Host to the very first "International Junior Team match". It took place at Stychfield Hall Stafford, Italy was just beginning to shine, so six of Italy's top junior couples came to compete against England's top junior couples. Robin Short was the selected Judge and Bryan Allen oversaw the team match from the stage. England won!.
The 1994 Staffordshire was a trendsetter. Tony Bennett confided in me at a Butlin's Junior Dance Festival that he was going to start a company called "Supadance Sheffield" and intended selling Dance shoes. The conversation that transpired resulted in the 1994 October Staffordshire Championships being the first competition to give giving vouchers to all the championship finalists, for "Supadance" shoes. A practice that took on and still continues today with many other commodities. In 1997 Brackley's couture tailoring offered sponsorship and remains with us to this day, thank you Tony Bailey
Over the years there have been many memorable moments, some amusing some not so amusing like the competitor that attracted the attention of the police and ambulance services by going out onto the roof of the Kings Hall in temper because he had missed the senior intermediate semi-final. And Beryl Holland told of how she heard a young man crying at the control table that he had to withdraw from the novice Latin because he had forgotten his routines (we weren't running that late). Philip Jackson celebrated a very special birthday - with a surprise strip-o-gram, and completely ruined Sammy Stopford's new dinner suit with the champagne.
But things don't always go according to plan. In another particular year Maureen ordered the eight Bouquets as normal, but when the time came to fetch them we had only the money for seven. It was Mark Lunn who came to the rescue, he and Julie Fryer were staying overnight after having a ballroom lesson(they were quite good). Mark suggested that we open up and take one flower and a bit of green fern from every Bouquet - and make a new one! So we did, we stayed up late and with the help of a little pink Ribbon and a cellophane bag it worked. No one complained.
In more recent years the Staffordshire was involved with the BBC's Blue Peter programme, two TV celebrities were selected to have latin lessons and dance at the competition. They did - so Alan and Maureen received a Blue Peter badge, as did Michael Stylianos and Lorna Lee.
Over the years we have had many happy moments, Sad moments, disastrous moments, the end of the world came many times, but it's the help and encouragement from friends and professional colleagues who offer support and advice when you are down that helps to keep you going, to them we say a big thank you!! They know who they are!... See you there!!