Meet Liverpool's legendary 85yo 'Dancing Queen' recognised in King's Honours List

"I wouldn’t know what quiet retirement would be!” says Liverpool Theatre School's Norah Button
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Liverpool Theatre School's Norah Button is enjoying a double celebration after being awarded a British Empire Medal in the King's New Year Honours list, just days away from her 85th birthday.

Miss Norah', as she is affectionately known at Liverpool Theatre School, was recognised for her lifetime contribution to dance as well as her commitment to improving opportunities for young people in the city.

Norah, who lives in Mossley Hill with her husband Jim, said she didn't expect to receive the news of her honour in the post. "Well, I didn’t think I was really good enough to get a gong so it was a surprise," she said. "I didn’t know what a BEM meant so I had to go and look it up before someone asks me."

The legendary teacher has dedicated her life to turning talented young performers into stars through her beloved Liverpool Theatre School, which was started by her grandmother in 1939, the same year Norah was born. The centre of excellence has turned out generations of professional performers, with graduates starring in countless smash-hit shows from SIX, Blood Brothers and Les Misérables to Wicked, The Book of Mormon and the West End adaptation of Frozen.

A talented performer in her own right, Norah spent over five decades as Principal of Liverpool Theatre School after taking the helm when her grandmother became ill. In the early 1990s, she was joined by former student Maxine Ellis, who co-ran the performing arts school with Norah before becoming sole Principal in 2011.

Norah continues to teach and inspire students, with no plans to slow down any time soon, she said: "I wouldn’t know what quiet retirement would be, and also I will never slow down. I can’t. It’s what I do."

Proving that learning is a lifelong journey, Norah recently became one of the oldest students in Britain to receive a Masters Degree in Musical Theatre and Drama after graduating from Liverpool John Moores University at the age of 83. The unstoppable octogenarian managed to complete her final dissertation whilst recovering from a quadruple heart by-pass. She even kept the other patients entertained by performing a ballet on the ward before surgery.

The former beauty queen, who won 19 pageants in the 1960s, is also credited with choreographing Sir Ken Dodd's Diddymen at all of his shows. She was awarded Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2010 for her contribution to dance, singing and drama through Liverpool Theatre School.

Liverpool Theatre School's Norah Button awarded a British Empire MedalLiverpool Theatre School's Norah Button awarded a British Empire Medal
Liverpool Theatre School's Norah Button awarded a British Empire Medal

Throughout her career, Norah has been committed to making professional training more accessible to all talented young performers, particularly those from working class backgrounds. Bringing the government funded Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA) to Liverpool Theatre School is one of her key achievements. The centre of excellence is one of just 15 stage schools in the country, and the only one in Merseyside, to offer DaDA funding, which is designed to support talented students who may otherwise struggle to afford the cost of professional training.

Liverpool Theatre School also became the first stage school in the country to scrap audition fees in 2018, which led to many more following suit. The Ofsted 'outstanding' school offers a number of fully-funded places and bursaries every year for elite Trinity and BTEC training programmes in dance, musical theatre and performing arts.eks of the rollout. The specialist devices have been placed at Lime Street's junction with London Road and Ranelagh Street at Brownlow Hill.