End of era for dance couple

A couple who have been leading ballroom sessions for 30 years will be hanging up their dancing shoes for good after this weekend.

Joyce and Michael Long, 79, from Nelson Court, Watton, started the Watton Ballroom Dancing Association at the Queens Hall in March 1983.

They will lead their final monthly session, which attracts about 90 amateurs and competitors, this Saturday.

Mrs Long, a former farm worker who grew up at nearby Scoulton, said: 'I will miss the camaraderie. We have been fortunate because in the 30 years I have missed two sessions and Michael has only missed one.

'We used to get quite a lot of people from Norwich who would compete because the Queens Hall has the best sprung floor in Norfolk.'

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The couple, who married at the Holy Trinity Church in Scoulton in 1955, first met in 1953 during one of the popular ballroom dances at Scoulton Village Hall.

These monthly events were put on by Mrs Long's father, Edgar Muskett, who has since died, for 10 years.

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Mrs Long said the dances attracted a mixture of people, who were entertained by a live band. 'It was the highlight of the month because there wasn't much else to do in Scoulton. It was good fun,' she added.

Mr Long, a former Acting Petty Officer in the Navy, was evacuated to Carbrooke from Ipswich in 1939 and learned to ballroom dance when he was posted to Singapore.

He has not been able to dance for the past four years after developing rheumatoid arthritis.

The couple ran the association for the first 10 years with fellow dancers Laurie and Babs Howe, from Ovington.

Mrs Long said: 'We had been dancing at Wicklewood Village Hall, but the sessions stopped. Laurie and Babs said the Queens Hall was empty and suggested we go there.'

Initially the association, which is a charity, only taught ballroom, but in recent years it has branched out to Latin dances.

Over the past 30 years the charity has donated �5,000 to good causes locally and internationally, including The Surge youth centre in Watton and Norfolk Fire Service. It has also raised money for mosquito nets and beds for Malawi.

Watton Ballroom Dancing Association will continue and will be led by husband and wife Val and Kevin Smithson.

The sessions, which cost �3.50, take place between 8pm and 11pm on the first Saturday of each month.

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