I guess my sister Pauline was about three or four in the late ’40s when mum signed her up for Flavia’s School of Dance. The Dance school rehearsed in an old church hall on Quex Road just of Kilburn High Road in Kilburn. Any extra rehearsing was done in a church about 3 doors from Flavia’s house. I think she lived on Brondesbury Villas
The dance school was run by Flavia Pickworth and her dance school hence it was called Flavia’s School of Dance, and her pupils were Flavia’s Starlets. The kids mainly girls were taught tap dance, ballet, acrobatics. and to sing and dance in general. The dance school had an annual show which all the kids in the school participated in. and the show usually at the ‘Met” was always in front of a sell-out crowd. The shows were very professionally done by Flavia and enjoyed by the kids their parents and of course the audiences.
Bryan age 12 his first suit
So, now that Pauline was in shows mum had to take up dressmaking for the different costumes that Pauline had to wear. Three months prior to a show, the small kitchen at 201 had half-sewn dance costumes hanging up everywhere. Mum also took on dressmaking for the other dance pupils. So, our tiny kitchen became pretty tight for space.
As already stated, The shows were usually performed at the old-time music hall at the Metropolitan Theater on the Edgware Road, which is in the Paddington area of London. The theatres’ location was almost at the junction of Harrow Road and Edgware Road. Just a few blocks up the road from Marble Arch.
After Pauline was at Flavia’s three to four years and with numerous shows under her belt. Flavia decided to put on a Pantomime, Cinderella. To put on Cinderella she needed 2-4 boys to participate in the show. so that being said mum ” volunteered ” me. So there I was at the tender age of about 10 going into show business.
A pantomime is a story with music and small skits all built into one unit. In this case, it was Cinderella. Other shows for example ” Puss in Boots” and “Jack and the Beanstalk. ” As you can see the shows are built around kids’ fairy stories. In the show, I was to be a highwayman. Just to round off the highwayman bit, I was also to do, acrobatics, tap dance and sing and dance. To top that off I had a solo as well.
Well, come the day of the show, I did my solo just singing a song then the little girls were let loose on stage with me. They were supposed to tap dance in a nice straight line. But they just wandered around the stage, with me chasing them trying to keep them in a line and the audience roaring with laughter. I don’t know how I did, but it went down pretty well, and that was all that mattered. even to the point of ushering the girls off the stage that too was a big hit. Another show that I remember was a cowboy show ‘ Annie get your gun “ I had to dress up as a cowboy and wear a false hairy chest. I was about 10 at the time
Flavia was a well-respected woman, loved by pupils and parents as well. Having said that I can remember her banging on a table to get a point across. Flavia had a son Mike Pickworth. Occasionally we would sing together and Mike would perform solos. Mike was lucky enough to get himself a guitar he then taught himself to play to 78 hit records of the day. Playing the likes of “Blue Suede Shoes “. Which was a hit song of the day written by Carl Perkins and recorded by Carl and also by Elvis Presley? Then there would of have been Heartbreak Hotel by Presley and there would be other songs by Buddy Holly which Mike would sing to. He didn’t know it at the time but getting and learning how to play the guitar was to set him on the road to being a pop star and becoming a cog in the music industry wheel.
Flavia loved to put on a show at the Metropolitan on the Edgware road. it was the real thing. The” Met “as it was lovingly called was the nearest theatre to Kilburn. and was just a bus ride down the road. Most of the kids had two or three parts in a two-hour show.
I would take great delight in creeping around backstage and peeking a look through the spyhole in the girl’s dressing room door. One time there as I looked through the peephole, I saw Maureen O’Donnell one of Flavia’s older girls. standing in the middle of the dressing room. There she was in a pair of knickers and was topless. Maureen was shaking her really nice extra large breasts and as luck would have it, she was facing the dressing room door. At the same time as she was shaking she was saying to anybody who would listen
” Look at me!”
Well, I certainly did! and I was rewarded with a boner in my pants.
The last year or so I was at Flavia’s. Flavia set up a troupe of about a dozen or so older “Starlets”, and we went on a tour of 5 different London Old Time music halls. The was, of course, The Met. Edgware road. Chelsea Palace, East Ham Brixton and one or two other places. We visited each theatre for a week and the theatres were all in different parts of London.
One of the men in the old-time music hall was a comedian Leon Cortez he always struck me as an example of what a dirty old man was.
Later Mike Pickworth changed his name to Mike Hurst and went on to become as I said previously a Pop Star.
I don’t know why Mike changed his name, I’ll have to ask him. Mike’s mother Flavia, put his name forward for an audition from advertising that she saw in the Stage magazine, Mike won the audition. and landed up singing with Dusty and Tom Springfield They were called the Springfields. And they went on to well in the charts worldwide this was in the early ’60s.
After this Mike went on to become a very successful record producer with the likes of Cat Stephens and various rock bands. I gotta be honest I glad that he did well in the music world, the world that he was cut out for.
Mike Hurst writing …
My mother, Flavia Pickworth, began her career on stage as a member of the Italia Conti stage school in London in the 1930’s. In the mid-thirties she took over her Mother’s dancing school and “Flavia’s Starlets” were born. She was a stickler for work and discipline. She had to be because her troupe became well known on the London Music Hall circuit, appearing with all the greats of the time. The great impresario, C B Cochran, put into print that he thought my Mother was a great teacher and inspired confidence from all her pupils. But for his untimely death, he would have been an enormous help to her.
My first appearance was at the age of four in 1947 at the Met on Edgware Road, London, one of the great old variety theatres. I sang “Money is the Root of All Evil” and “California Here I come”. From 1947 to 1956 I appeared in all my Mother’s shows and also toured periodically with Music Hall bills, with the likes of Sid Field, Max Miller and Leon Cortez. It was an education. It also gave me an enduring love of the stage and, as later years would prove, an even greater love for the enthusiasm and energy generated by youngsters.
Rock and Roll brought an end to my involvement with the Mother’s group in 1957. I wanted to be Elvis, not Gene Kelly. With my Mother’s help and endless enthusiasm, I joined The Springfields in 1962. I subsequently produced many hit artists such as Cat Stevens, Manfred Mann and Spencer Davies. Mother, meanwhile, had forged links with a London agency and was placing some of her more talented pupils in big West End shows like Oliva.
So there you go, a mother and son, who were very successful in the entertainment business. I would say that my life was a lot richer for having known both of them.