Peterborough’s very own cupid Dereck Brown helped romance blossom throughout the city during his many decades teaching people how to dance. And at his funeral on Friday, tributes flooded in for ‘a pillar of Peterborough’ and ‘true gentleman’.
Dereck was given the honour of a service at Peterborough Cathedral and dozens of people came to pay their respects to the man who ran Brown’s Dancentre in Lincoln Road for over 40 years with wife Edna by his side.
Edna and daughter Joanne were inundated after the service by well-wishers who wanted to thank the family for everything Dereck had done for them.
One of them was Veronica Woodcock-Ellard who first took lessons from Dereck in 1955. She said: “I started at just 16. He got me through five exams with highly commended.
“I loved it. As a teacher he was kind and encouraged me. I really enjoyed my dancing days.”
Les and Doreen Culpin met at a dance Dereck organised at the Town Hall 50 years ago. They then married the following year.
Doreen said: “We would not have met if it were not for Dereck.”
Len said: “We’ve had our ups and downs but still love each other. Dereck and Edna sent us a telegram 49 years ago this month.”
Paul and Diane Hurrell met at Brown’s Dancentre in 1985 at a singles night. They said three or four couples from their group had also got married.
The service began at 11.45am and lasted 45 minutes. It included eulogies from Dereck’s brother-in-law Charles Swift, his son-in-law Mark Windsor-Hampton and CEO of the International Dance Teachers’ Association Keith Holmes.
There was also a tribute sent in by Dereck’s friend and Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, a rendition of Lord of the Dance and a round of applause in Dereck’s memory, as well as hymns, poems and prayers.
Edna said: “I thought the service was absolutely fabulous. To be allowed the privilege of the cathedral was fantastic.
“Dereck was a loving and very, very caring man and he absolutely loved dancing - it was his life.
“And he wanted to help everybody. If he could give them help he did.”
In his eulogy Charles, who was a city councillor in Peterborough for 62 years, described Dereck as “one of the pillars of society in this city.”
He said: “This cathedral has witnessed many men and women brought through the Great West Doors. Vincent Dereck Brown joins the list of eminent people.
“Dereck and I were immigrants from Yorkshire and boy could Dereck tell a story. He was a marvellous orator and could speak on any subject on any length.
“He was extremely proud of his daughter Joanne and son-in-law Mark and idolised his grandson Jack.
“Those who knew Dereck I’m sure would agree with me that we have all lost what can only be described as a perfect English gentleman.”
Mark read out tributes to Dereck which had been sent in. He told the congregation: “You have seen what a wonderful and inspirational man he was.”
Keith said he was very proud and honoured to be representing the dancing profession.
He added: “Dereck was a really sincere man who you never heard say a wrong word about anyone.
“An honest man, a man with integrity, a man of true professionalism, a man passionate about his subject, a man who was impeccably dressed.
“A true gentleman in every sense of the word.
“He had the knack of making everyone feel important and important to him.
“We have lost our dear friend and mentor. I’m sure all of your lives have been enriched in some way knowing Dereck. I know mine has.
“To the family, the whole of the dance profession are thinking of you in this sad time in your lives.”
Last year, Dereck was awarded the distinguished title Director Emeritus by the International Dance Teachers’ Association in recognition of his contribution to the dance profession.
Keith said the organisation had received tributes from people in many countries since the news of Dereck’s passing.
He ended his eulogy by quoting Tina Turner - “Dereck, you were simply the best.”
Dereck was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire in 1927 and spent some of his early working life transporting coal to farms.
He was conscripted into the army at Port Said, Egypt then returned home to carry on learning dance at Nora Billingtons’ School of Dance in Oldham after catching the bug aged seven.
He moved to Peterborough in 1952 where he worked as a dance teacher at the Max Grist Dance Studio before opening Brown’s Dancentre.
Classes were so busy it was often not possible to get into the studio, and it was not uncommon to see queues around the corner.
Dereck’s grandson Jack said: “He was very jolly and always making jokes and trying to give advice.
“The service was fantastic and I’m really happy we managed to get it at the cathedral. It’s almost humbling to see how many people care and a lot of people have travelled here.”
‘He was responsible for a lot of marriages’ - tributes to the man who taught Peterborough how to dance