I propose a ‘Dance for Dereck Day’
These days it seems that there is an award or honour for everything, from Simon Says to extreme eating; who knew that there was even such a thing as a “whole hog burger” or that it contained over a pound of hamburger, sausage, bacon, prosciutto and pepperoni - plus four types of cheese, garlic mayo and pickles, all topped off with fries and onion rings - that’s a whole 2,850 calories! No, me neither, but apparently it’s “award winning!”
But it’s not just gut busting burgers that are getting gongs, our children win a certificate just for taking part nowadays, whilst failed students receive honorary degrees from publicity hungry universities, just for being their obnoxious selves, in some awful reality TV show on Channel 5 (insert one of many here).
Businessmen who raid employee pension funds are feted, whilst sycophants and cronies of former Prime Ministers are rewarded with gongs and seats in the House of Lords.
Those that quietly go about their business, doing their bit for others, are seldom recognised for their deeds.
Dereck Brown was one such man.
I only met him once, when he came into the BBC Cambridgeshire studio to announce that he was retiring, after four decades of teaching the people of Peterborough to dance, from his studios in Lincoln Road.
Although, long before I had ever met him, I felt like I already knew him and his wife Edna, mostly through the countless stories, that were constantly told across the city, of his inspirational teaching of ballroom dancing.
He wasn’t in it for the money or the recognition, he did it for the love; “Do ya folla?” He would often ask, in his broad, Yorkshire accent, as he attempted to bring amateur waltzers, foxtrotters and quicksteppers up to speed.
Generations of Peterborians, went to Lincoln Road to dance with many finding true love on Dereck’s sprung dance floor, including the present leader of the council, John Holdich.
His unique teaching methods were adopted and adapted but never bettered, even Strictly Come Dancing head judge, Len Goodman (a life-long friend) admitted to “borrowing” the Brown method, when setting up his own dance schools. He also paid tribute to a “special man”, when he spoke to me on the BIG Conversation on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire last week: “He was my inspiration, a lovely, lovely, man,” he said.
So many people called in to the show with their own special memories of Dereck and the stories they told oozed love and affection from every pore.
There is no doubt that he will be sadly missed but he will never be forgotten and I am sure that Peterborough Cathedral will be full to the rafters for his funeral on Friday, August 12th, at 11.45am.
But maybe the city should go one step further for a man who did so much for so many, a man who brought much joy and love to Peterborough.
So I propose a “Dance for Dereck Day” in Cathedral Square; “Do ya folla?”
We could hang some glitter balls, crank up the music, pull on our dancing shoes and go quick, quick, slow through the fountains; what better way to honour somebody who truly deserves it.
I will get on to the council now!