The Founder Lillian Rowley
No doubt Lillian Rowley’s career was settled at the tender age of three when she made her stage debut and presented a boquet to the legendary Sarah Bernhardt. Lillian, who was the daughter of a well- known pianist and entertainer, Dinah Somerville, trained as a dancer and while still in her teens appeared in some of the first television test transmissions made by Logie Baird. A year or so later she choreographed some of the first dance routines to be shown.
In the following years she worked as a Principal Dancer, Choreographer and Comedienne, then in her mid-thirties, opened her own dance school in West Middlesex, which quickly expanded. It became apparent to her that a broad structure encompassing similar schools was needed and so the seed for The British Arts was sown.
During the war years she was part of a company that put on shows at military camps and prisons. Another member of that group was Olive Bush who played a valuable role in the British Arts for many years. Later, Lillian became the first woman to run an ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) company.
Then followed a period as compere at ‘Stage Door Canteen’ where she introduced many stars of the London theatre and the American film industry.
From the eary fifties she produced, wrote and presented a long list of productions including five National Displays of Dancing at the Royal Albert Hall. The Guinness Book of Records still holds her entry for presenting the largest group of dancers in one arena.
Author of ‘So You Want To Go On The Stage’ she worked tirelessly through the years, (in spite of chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis), to help and advise teachers and to guide many young performers towards a successful career.
She died in 1985