Nicola inspires new generations of Irish dancers in St Helens

St Helens Star: Nicola King as a young Irish dancer Nicola King as a young Irish dancer

IT’S nearly 40 years since the Star reported on the twinkle-toed success of a young dancer from St Helens.

Nicola King, then aged 11, was the first girl from this area to qualify for the World Irish Dancing Championship Finals.

There followed 13 more years of high-stepping success for the colleen from Sutton Leach.

Nicola collected the first of many North West regional titles in 1978 and her second World Championship medal in 1988 followed not to mention numerous local championships.

She told the Star: “I was encouraged to take up Irish dancing by Sister Mary, then headmistress at St. Theresas RC Primary School in Sutton Manor.

“My Grandad was a very keen Irish dancer and was always a bit disappointed that nobody else in the family had taken it up. He was from Frenchpark, just outside Boyle in County Roscommon.”

Then 25 years ago when the time came to hang up her dancing shoes, Nicola passed her teaching exam and decided to inspire a new generation by opening the King Academy of Irish Dancing.

She added: “When I was coming to the end of my career, my dancing teacher, Betty Kelly, suggested I take over one of her classes in Earlestown Irish Club. This I did and after a few years hard work building up the class I got my first World Championship Qualifiers.

“Sadly I was forced to choose between competing and teaching, as a new rule was brought in that banned dancers from teaching whilst still competing.”

From humble beginnings with just 12 dancers, a quarter of a century later the school is recognised a one of the most successful schools in the country having produced no less than five world champions, with the towns first ever World Irish Dancing Champion, Gareth Unsworth from Clock Face... a title that Gareth won three times in a row, plus 22 major champions and more than 50 regional champions.

At the recent North West Regional Championships, the King Academy was once again the most successful school in the North West with no less than 16 solo qualifiers, 15 girls and 1 boy including 3 champions.

These included 11-year-old Ellie Fitzsimmons, from Rainhill, who successfully defended her title to become the latest in a very long line of King Academy dancers who have become North West Regional Champion.

Nicola, who now adjudicates at competitions all over the world, continued: “The World Championships are to be held in Boston this year over Easter, and we are trying to raise funds so some of these dancers are able to take their places and compete against the best the world has to offer.

“However, money is very tight in the current financial times, and therefore if any businesses are able to help out with a donation to the fundraising campaign - it would be greatly appreciated.”

To celebrate this remarkable milestone for Nicola King, and the King Academy, a Silver Anniversary Reunion and Fundraising Ceili is to be held on Saturday, March 2 at 8.00pm at Sidac Sports & Social Club in St Helens.

The evening will include a ceili band, disco, entertainment, bingo, raffle, super buffet - and no doubt much reminiscing!

Past dancers, parents and friends of the King Academy are invited to come along and help Nicola celebrate this Silver Anniversary and meet up again with old acquaintances.

Tickets are now available from Nicola who would love to see as many faces from the past as possible.

Please contact Nicola on 07899 937845 or email kingacademy@uwclub.net to reserve your tickets.

Anybody who has a children or grandchildren that they would like to get involved in Irish Dancing, and would like to join the King Academy, which trains at St. Peters Church Hall, Broad Oak on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings, please contact Nicola to enrol.

Adult Ceili Classes are also in the pipeline and therefore if you fancy giving it a go then more details are available by contacting Nicola.

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