Tributes after death of inspirational Wigan dance teacher Miss Fenn

An inspirational dance teacher who taught thousands of youngsters during her 50-year career has died.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 7:00 am
Miss Fenn in her younger days

Barbara Cavey, who was best known as Miss Fenn, dedicated her life to helping other people learn ballet and tap through the Fenn School of Dancing.

Her love of dancing led to her setting up the school in her parents’ front room on Shaw Street, Swinley, when she was just 18.

Her mother Agnes helped to make costumes for the pupils and her father Vincent made their hats.

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Miss Fenn taught dancing for 50 years

As she school grew, it moved into St John’s Church’s lower club room for many years, before moving to Scarisbrick Street and then Upper Dicconson Street.

Her daughter Jan Badji said: “She must have taught thousands of people. I can remember at any one time in her heyday there must have been an average of 350 pupils. I think the most she had at once was 400 pupils. That was a lot of people.

“I have seen on Facebook that a lot of people danced with her, their children danced and their grandchildren danced. It’s amazing.”

Miss Fenn mainly taught ballet and tap lessons, but also started doing keep fit classes for her pupils’ mothers.

Miss Fenn

She was always busy, with classes in the dance school and teaching in a studio at her home on Swinley Road. The studio was a hive of activity, full of people building scenery for sets every Sunday.

She also did exams for entrants to the Royal Ballet School.

Miss Fenn retired when she was 68 - 50 years after she started teaching youngsters in her parents’ home - and passed over the reins of her school to former pupil Tina Smith.

Miss Fenn was born and brought up in Wigan and lived in Swinley until 2005, when she moved next-door to her brother in Shevington.

She married Richard Cavey at St John’s Church in 1954 and had five children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Her children all learned to dance and play musical instruments.

She enjoyed going to the theatre, ballroom dancing and family days out at Ainsdale beach.

Jan said: “She was a very disciplined lady.

“Her life was quite disciplined but I don’t mean that in a horrible way, she was very good and very organised.

“All the children in the school loved her.

“From the things people have said to me, she was such a lovely lady and a real inspiration.

“With a lifetime of dancing, you have to be disciplined and I think that came over in her way.

“She never smoked and she never, ever swore. She was very principled. She was a very good and faithful Catholic.

“She was very industrious. I can remember when she was having my youngest brother, she was teaching a dance class and realised she was in labour. She packed up all her things, took it home and drove herself to the hospital. That’s the kind of woman she was.”

Miss Fenn, 88, died on February 19 after being ill for some time and was buried alongside her parents at Gidlow Cemetery. For anyone wishing to pay their respects, her grave is number 547 in section 10.

A Facebook page named Miss Fenns Dancing School Memories has been created for people to share their photographs.

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