This feis in Welling School celebrated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Mc- Gahan Lees school of Irish dancing.
Soon after qualifying as a dance teacher Frances McGahan decided in 1996 to give up the security of her London job in order to launch herself into the less certain world of establishing a career as a teacher of Irish dancing.
With a small number of pupils her school developed from its humble beginnings to a position of being a major thriving academy with successes on national and international stages which include three world solo champions as well as titles at the All Ireland, Great Britain, British National, All Scotland, and North American Irish Dance Championships.
Over this relatively short period McGahan Lees has grown from a one-teacher school, with dancers mainly from the London- Essex area, into a multiteacher academy with classes in Essex, Kent, Oxford, London and more recently in Prague and Warsaw.
In addition to Frances the teaching staff now includes Marion Flanagan AD/BCRG, Cecily Charlton, Debbie McGahan, Izzy Yorke, Leanne Gray, Siobhan Forrest, Amy Kingham and Liz McCarthy, all certified teachers of An Coimisiun and most enjoyed successful dance careers with the academy and have between them won every major title including world champion.
Apart from success and development within the academy itself several former McGahan Lees dancers have gone on to establish their own dance schools, including world medal holder Danielle Arthurs at Reel Eire and Southern England Oireachtas champion Ferne Turner at the Turner Academy.
Others have carved out successful show dancing careers in Riverdance and in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance whilst at the same time working hard to achieve qualified teacher status. The academy’s dancers and their parents were visibly involved in every aspect of managing and timetabling the competitions over the weekend.
At one point about 40 of the academy’s dancers assembled on stage, in between duties and competitions, to pay tribute to their teachers. This was followed by the presentation to Frances of a cake with a top layer replicating the 20th anniversary medal presented to each and every competitor.
The feis had an element of celebration but above all it was a seriously competitive event that attracted the possibles and probables for the current world championships. not only from all over the UK and Ireland, but they also came from USA, Canada, Australia and Europe.