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Rayleigh Dance club bows out in style after 60 years
MUSIC from a bygone era filled the room as dancers took their partners for one last spin at a 60-year-old club.
The Rayleigh Modern Sequence Dance Club closed its doors for the last time after six decades.
Originally known as the Rayleigh Old Time and Modern Sequence Dance Club it started in the Crown Hall behind the pub of the same name in Rayleigh High Street.
When the Mill Hall in Bellingham Lane, Rayleigh, opened up in 1971 the club moved there and had so many people interested in becoming a member they had to set up a waiting list.
The glamorous Saturday night events were accompanied by music from bands such as the New Serenaders, Essie Parry and the Debonairs.
Founders Bob and Lily Lott, who lived on the Tower Caravan Park in Hullbridge, ran the club for thirty years until they retired in 1983.
It was then that dancing duo, Bert and Chris Chesterman, stepped up and took over the running of the popular group.
Bert, 89, Westcliff, said: "I have been a member since 1975. We joined when the club came to the Mill Hall.
"We came here and looked through the door and recognised two or three people who waved us in. We liked what we saw and joined.
"I have made friends all over the country.
"In this sort of dancing there is a togetherness there but at the same time you are encouraged to put in your own style."
Chris Chesterman, also of Westcliff, has been dancing with Bert since 1966.
She added: said: "It is the friendship and fun, the social aspect and the fact that I love dancing. We were the teachers here for 25 years. We only gave up a few years ago because of our health really.
“We have run holidays from this club and we used to take two coachloads of people away. We did days out. Lily and Bob used to do that as well and we took over and carried on the tradition.
"It is very sad it is finished. Younger people are not interested in this sort of entertainment now.
The older people are getting older and younger people aren't coming along."
The group enjoyed many dancing holidays over its lengthy lifetime including trips to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Paignton, Skegness and Harrogate.
Sadly, the membership dropped considerably and without new members joining the club has dwindled.
Bill Trower, 81, who lives in Hullbridge, has been dancing for more than 40 years.
He said: "It frightened the life out of me when I first came.
"I was invited along to visit the Rayleigh club at the Mill Hall. In those days you had to get on a waiting list. If a member hadn't been along for three consecutive weeks they were crossed off the list.
"I met my late wife originally ballroom dancing in the late Forties. Single boys went along to find single girls.
"I like the modern sequence, you dance to a sequence of bars of music and then you repeat. I have made a lot of friends."
The club committee reluctantly decided to wind up the group - but not without one last festive dance.
Fay Savill, who lives in Rayleigh, took over the group about three years ago.
She said she never imagined she would end up taking such a prominent role in the club.
She said: "I've been dancing about 24 years.
"I used to do stage dancing years ago and I belonged to an operatic and dramatic society. I never thought I would do this in a million years, I was too scared. Dancing on a stage didn't bother me but dancing on the same level scared the living daylights out of me."
The group were determined to go out with a bang and, as organist David Last played all the favourites, they joined together to Tango for the last time.
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