Tributes to charity stalwart and much-loved Clitheroe dance teacher who inspired thousands

A Clitheroe dance teacher and "colossal character", who raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity from her theatrical shows, has died aged 72.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 3:45 pm
The late Gladys Sutcliffe who taught generations of local dancers pictured with her husband, Garth

Gladys Sutcliffe, who ran the Sutcliffe Theatre School in St James’s Street, Clitheroe, died after a short illness.

Gladys was born and raised in Motherwell to an Irish father, Jeremiah, and Scottish mother, also called Gladys. She developed a passion for dance at a young age and attended the Jack Muir School of Dancing, which she eventually ran.

By the time she was in her early twenties, she ran five dance schools and had launched a lifelong commitment to charity fundraising, with annual shows at the Motherwell Civic

Theatre in aid of Cancer Research.

She went on to build a career as a dancer – including stints on television – before meeting her beloved late husband, Garth, in 1973, while they were redcoats at Butlin’s in Filey.

They were married at Motherwell Congregational Church, before settling in Clitheroe, where Garth taught English at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School.

Gladys ran dance schools at Ribblesdale and Clitheroe Cricket Clubs, before moving to St James’s Street with Garth and newborn daughter Gaynor in 1981.

It was at St James’s Street that she started the popular Sutcliffe Theatre School and in the subsequent years she taught generations of local dancers, some of who went on to professional careers.

She also became a fellow of the Internal Dance Teachers Association and gained an MA in Dance and Business Administration from Buckinghamshire University.

Gladys’s theatrical extravaganzas were legendary and she received a Clitheroe Town Award for Community Service in 2003, after raising tens of thousands of pounds for several good causes, including the East Lancashire Hospice, the Red Cross, the Kenneth MacMillan Memorial Fund and the Royal Manchester Hospital.

She also gave free dance lessons to Chernobyl children during their annual recuperative visits to Clitheroe.

Ribble Valley Councillor Mary Robinson, who presented Gladys with the town award while Mayor of Clitheroe, said: “Gladys was colossal character and a huge-hearted

woman, who contributed significantly to the community, by training generations of local dancers and raising significant funds for charity. She will be sorely missed.”

Gladys was an examiner for the International Dance Teachers Association and was in demand at adjudication sessions throughout the North West for her warm and friendly manner.

Pauline Kellett, a fellow of the International Dance Teachers Association, said: “Gladys was one of the best choreographers and dance adjudicators I have ever known, with a meticulous attention to detail and incredible generosity. She was highly thought of throughout the dance world and I have been contacted by colleagues from across the UK saddened by her death.”

Gladys Sutcliffe is survived by her daughter, violinist Gaynor Sutcliffe, and granddaughters, Maisie and Hazel.

She was cremated during a small gathering of family and friends in line with current pandemic regulations, but a concert is planned in her memory in Clitheroe in September.

She was a passionate supporter of children’s charities and a Just Giving page has been started in aid of Derian House Children’s Hospice at justgiving.com/fundraising/gladys-sutcliffe.