Posted on January 24, 2019
The former studio of a pair of ballroom legends is in the running for a Blue Plaque. Grafton Dance Centre in Dulwich, London, which was run for more than 25 years by Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman, one of the best-known ballroom couples in the world at the time, is among this year’s Southwark Blue Plaque nominees, after a public consultation.
The annual scheme, organised by Southwark Heritage Association, in conjunction with Southwark Council and local newspaper Southwark News, aims to recognise people and places of historical interest in the borough with the installation of a Blue Plaque. The final decision is made by the number of votes received for each shortlisted nomination.
Paul Burbedge, who runs Grafton Dance Centre today, said: “Having submitted an application, Bob and Doreen are one of the seven shortlisted for a plaque but are up against some stiff competition, including that of Max Bygraves.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate, well into the future, the distinguished lives of two of the world’s best known ballroom dancers. Your support is absolutely vital to achieve this goal. Anyone can vote from anywhere in the world and voting closes on February 28.”
Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman achieved considerable success in the competitive world, including being placed second at the World Professional 10-Dance Championship from 1961 to 1963 and receiving a Carl Alan Award. The pair took over the Grafton, in Village Way, Dulwich, in 1972.
“I have been the custodian of Grafton Hall since 2010,” adds Burbedge. “The dance studio was, at one time, one of the main hubs for the ballroom dancing world, made famous by Bob and Doreen. We still have teachers attend the studio who knew them well and are in contact with Doreen who resides in a home in Scotland, as well as Doreen’s daughter.
“For me, their presence is very much in my thoughts as I update and refurbish the building. Gaining enough votes to secure the Blue Plaque will go to cement their association with this little part of south London forever.”
To cast your vote please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and write the following in the subject “Blue Plaque –Vote: Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman.” For further information see graftondancecentre.co.uk.
Photograph: Doreen Freeman and Bob Burgess on the cover of the Ballroom Dancing Times in 1998