Retirement Village Hosts Transatlantic Reunion For Former ‘Bush Babes’
When it comes to school reunions – there aren’t many as ‘all singing and all dancing’ as the one which reunited ex-pupils of the Bush Davis School of Theatre Arts in West Sussex.
The former ‘Bush Babes’ as they are known, and friends for life, have been back to their famous stomping ground in East Grinstead, now a privately-owned retirement village.
A group of around 15 former pupils from Bush Davis – headed up by 57-year-old Sandra Woollatt-Daniels – recently made the transatlantic trip to meet up and look around Charters Village, part of the Retirement Villages Group.
The power of social media coupled with the unbreakable bond of the Bush Babes sparked this latest visit, and a chance for Sandra (now living in South Carolina) to visit her ‘beloved England’.
The friends were greeted by the management team at Charters Village and enjoyed reminiscing and looking around their former dance school.
For Sandra, it is also part of a personal journey to East Grinstead and the place her late mother grew up. Sandra still has family in the area, including a great Aunt in her nineties, and used her visit to rekindle contact with family members.
As a girl, Sandra recalls her first impressions of Bush Davis, were she was to spend five years completing her academic education and her Royal Academy of Dance exams.
“I started at Bush in the fall of 1976 and left after the summer term of 1981. Talk about a culture shock, going from public school in the states to a private all-girls boarding school in England. I had no idea what was going on when the teacher walked in the classroom for the first time and everyone becoming quiet and stood up.”
After short spell living in Holland, Sandra and her parents moved to Washington in 1965 when her father was offered a job at the World Bank. Alternative summers were spent in East Grinstead, and at the age of 12 – with an unquenchable passion for ballet – Sandra attended summer classes at Bush before finally persuading her parents to let her join full time.
She remembers: “We all studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, National (character), and some of us studied drama and singing/voice as well. All this fitted in between our academic classes. While at Bush, we also performed for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee at the Royal Albert Hall. Our shows were amazing and took place at our beloved Adeline Genee Theatre. People came from all over the world to see their children perform, as there were students from all over the world, including myself. “Dame Margot Fonteyn was there at the inception of the school and Dame Beryl Grey was a benefactress the whole time also. It was a world-renowned school. I aspired to dance, teach, coach, choreograph, all of which I did and do.”
A long list of famous names trod the boards at the school, which officially closed in 1989. Sandra has kept up to date with changes over the years through contact with family and re-connected with old friends.
She added: “After the huge social media boom many years ago now, we all found each other again and joke that we will all live together again at Charters Village in our old age, having our midnight feasts and sneaking out to the town. Never has there been a closer group of people as our Bush Babes. “It has been wonderful and emotional to come back to the ‘school’ and to East Grinstead, and our huge thanks to everyone at the village who made us feel so welcome – listening to our stories and showing us around, making more memories which will be cherished.”
Retirement Villages Group Ltd regional sales manager Chris Buck said: “It has been an absolute joy to welcome the former Bush Babes back to Charters Village, enjoying a wonderful insight and personal accounts of treasured former days here.”