Two cancelled trains and rainfall all day failed to put a dampener on a Royal occasion for a woman dubbed “Britain’s oldest ballet dancer.”
Huddersfield-born Barbara Peters, 84, was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.
And last week Barbara and her daughter Claire O’Connor, founder of the babyballet franchise, accepted an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate with the Royal family.
Despite two cancelled trains which meant a diversion to York before they could catch a train to London – and persistent rain – Barbara had a fabulous time.
“We had two cancelled trains and it rained all day and the skies were grey but that didn’t matter one bit,” said Barbara. “We had a lovely time and I was just so honoured to be invited.
“The gardens were beautiful to see and I’ve never had a buffet like it. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were there and we were able to mingle.”
Born and raised in Huddersfield, Barbara trained at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and became the academy’s youngest examiner at the age of 25.
She returned to Huddersfield in the 1960s and started the Barbara Peters School of Dancing, which helped generations of young dancers over half a century.
Barbara performed on TV’s ‘The Greatest Dancer’ aged 80 and has also appeared on ‘Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two’ and has been dubbed “Britain’s oldest ballet dancer.”
At 84 Barbara is still dancing and runs a group called Silver Swans at Dance Arena Ballet & Stage School in Brighouse. She is also studying for another ballet qualification.
Barbara, who recently became a fellow of the Royal Academy of Dance after a lifelong association, is still really busy.
“I am 84 and people think you should be hanging up your ballet shoes and watch television but if you’re lucky enough to still be mobile and fit, why not carry on?” she said.
Barbara has another TV appearance lined up as she’s taken part in a new series by Dr Michael Mosley called ‘How to Live to 101.’
It’s all about staying healthy and active into old age and Barbara’s ballet class was also included in the filming.
“It’s about showing how ballet keeps your muscles supple and strong and improves balance,” she said. “It was good fun.”
Barbara admitted she’d suffered mentally during lockdown when she was isolated from family and friends but a busy few months had helped her get back on form.
“I must admit I was shattered the day after going to the Palace but London is always tiring,” she said. “This year has been very busy but I think I thrive on it!”
Barbara’s daughter Claire surprised her mum by decorating the seats on the train and handing her a sash with the slogan: ‘Queen for a day!’
Barbara said one of the best parts of the day was being able to spend quality time with her daughter and Claire loved the day too.
“It was incredible to visit Buckingham Palace and celebrate with my mum,” said Claire. “I’m so proud of all her achievements. She’s such an inspiration.”