‘He was responsible for a lot of marriages’ - tributes to the man who taught Peterborough how to dance

Dereck and Edna Brown
Dereck and Edna Brown

The man who taught Peterborough how dance has passed away aged 88, prompting an outpouring of tributes.

Dereck Brown was renowned across the city for the running of Brown’s Dancentre, in Lincoln Road, Millfield, where he taught countless students alongside wife Edna.

Dereck Brown

Dereck Brown

The couple have been credited with starting a number of relationships through their classes, including that of Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich and wife Barbara who have been married 51 years after learning to dance together.

Moreover, Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman had been a regular visitor at Brown’s Dancentre over the years, having had his DVDs for dance teachers filmed by Dereck until the studio was closed in 2012 with Dereck and Edna retiring.

Dereck, of Netherton, passed away peacefully at the Edith Cavell Hospital in Bretton Gate on Sunday (July 24). He was not in any pain.

His son-in-law Mark Windsor-Hampton said: “He taught Peterborough how to dance. As soon as you mentioned dancing and filming he would light up.

Dereck Brown and Edna Brown retire after 60 years of running a dance studio in Lincoln Road ENGEMN00120111212195039

Dereck Brown and Edna Brown retire after 60 years of running a dance studio in Lincoln Road ENGEMN00120111212195039

“Dancing was his life.”

Cllr Holdich, whose children also went to the dance classes, said: “I used to go there on a Wednesday night to learn to dance. I met my wife there - we danced together on several occasions.

“They used to run trips to Stevenage Locarno. I sat on a bus with her on the way home and asked for a date and the rest is history. Fifty-one years of history.

“Derek and Edna have introduced so many couples together and must be responsible for a lot of marriages. And a lot of Peterborough people learned an awful lot from them.

“We had great fun and they were a great couple. Their enthusiasm and enjoyment of dancing came through with everybody.”

Tributes have been flooding in on Facebook for Dereck.

Sue Whaley said: “How sad, sending deepest sympathy to Edna, Jo and family, thanks to him I learnt to dance which has brought me great joy over the years. RIP Dereck a true gentleman.”

Sarah Holt said: “How sad, I danced there myself from the age of 4-14, still proudly have my rosettes and trophies....my sincere condolences to Edna and family xx.”

Dianne Richardson said: “Spent many years in his dance studio. Dereck and Edna always stopped for a chat whenever I saw them. Very much a Peterborough icon and will be missed.”

Julie Blackwell said: “RIP Dereck a true gentleman, both myself and my children have spent happy times in Browns dance studio.....my thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time x.”

A post on the Tu Danse Facebook page said: “When I was 3 my mum took me to my first dance lesson and at 16 I left school and went to teach for that same dance school and Dereck & Edna Brown.

“Dereck was a typical Yorkshire man ... said it as it was .... He was hardworking , dedicated to his studios and very passionate about dance in particular Ballroom & Latin dance .

“I have lots to thank him and Edna for .. And today as I look around Tu Danse Studios I can only remember him with a great fondness and his words to me as he looked around my studios for the first time .... “you have done a good job luv” ..... I had a great teacher Dereck .... You can RIP knowing that you made such a difference to so many lives X.”

Dereck and Edna married in Peterborough in 1956 after Edna learnt ballroom steps from Dereck.

Speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph in 2011, Dereck said: “When we first started we had 100 pupils at every class and taught about 2,000 people a week.

“We were open all day, seven days a week for couples wanting to come along and learn to dance.”

Derek was originally from Todmorden, Yorkshire. He started off his working life as a young lad in the cotton mills then onto a job transporting coal to farms.

Conscription saw him in the port city of Aden, Yemen, with the army before returning back up north where he continued his passion for dancing which all started at the age of seven when he attended the Nora Billingtons’ School of Dance in Oldham after being inspired by watching a Fred Astaire film at the cinema.

After moving to Peterborough in 1952, Dereck continued his dancing by working at the Max Grist Dance Studio in Cambridge Avenue (the building is still there) and in 1970 opened Browns Dancentre in Millfield Road.

Classes were so busy it was often not possible to get into the studio, and during the ‘disco’ era it was not uncommon to see queues around the corner with eager pupils awaiting instruction to learn the latest ‘Night Fever’ routine with in excess of 200 people at any one time bopping on the dance floor.

Social dancing was also very popular and, with the bonus of a licensed bar and one of the first air conditioning studios in the country, Browns Dancentre was the place to go.

Dereck was a director of the International Dance Teachers’ Association which meant life was still very busy after retirement, but in February this year he became unwell and, for the first time, was unable to attend the dance events he once filmed.

Dereck’s son-in-law Mark continues his dedication to recording dance events and is currently archiving Dereck’s past unique recordings from 1983 onwards while his daughter, Joanne, carries on the family tradition of friendly, happy dance classes at Stanground Community College.