School friend of the man who taught David Bowie to dance excited for his return to South Shields

Lindsay Kemp with David Bowie.
Lindsay Kemp with David Bowie.

A school friend of the man who taught David Bowie to dance has shared memories of their childhood together.

Sylvia Lambert met South Shields-born Lindsay Kemp in 1948 at the Royal Merchant Navy School where they were both pupils.

Lindsay Kemp in his school uniform in 1953.

Lindsay Kemp in his school uniform in 1953.

A 10-year-old Lindsay had been sent to the boarding school, in Berkshire, after his father died in service to the Navy.

As Lindsay prepares to bring a new show to his home town, Sylvia told of how they bonded over their mutual love of music and performing and became firm friends.

Sylvia, 79, has stayed in touch with Lindsay and watched in awe as his career progressed over the years.

He went on to become a famed dancer and choreographer, with David Bowie and Kate Bush among his celebrity clients.

Sylvia Lambert, a school pal of Lindsay Kemp, in a recent production of the Calendar Girls.

Sylvia Lambert, a school pal of Lindsay Kemp, in a recent production of the Calendar Girls.

Gran-of-four Sylvia, who still regularly performs with local theatre groups, said: “I remember in 1953 when there had been floods in Norfolk, Lindsay wanted to do something to raise money to help.

“He asked the head master if he could perform at the school.

“He really was an exceptional child who just had this urge to perform, and he went on to have such an eventful life.”

Lindsay was born to South Shields parents in the Wirral on Merseyside in 1938, but when his sailor father was lost at sea in 1940, his mother brought him back to her hometown. He saw his first pantomime at the Sunderland Empire at the age of four, and was hooked on theatre and performance.

Lindsay Kemp, far left,  in a school play in 1951, with his classmates, including seven from North and South Shields.

Lindsay Kemp, far left, in a school play in 1951, with his classmates, including seven from North and South Shields.

After school, he moved to Bradford where he attended the town’s art college before studying dance with Hilda Holger and the great mime artist Marcel Marceau.

He formed his own dance company in the early 60s and first attracted attention with an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968. Numerous acclaimed performances followed, and by this point, he’d already met a 19-year-old Bowie.

The singer attended Lindsay’s class and later turned to him to choreograph the stage show of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

Sylvia said: “Lindsay was so different from all the other boys at the school and we just had this rapport with each other.

Lindsay Kemp during a live performance.

Lindsay Kemp during a live performance.

“Over the years we’ve kept in touch and of course I’ve followed his career.

“I could never have imagined the amazing things he would go on to do.”

Lindsay became a legendary teacher, a sought-after dancer and cabaret performer and an actor, appearing in Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane and Jubilee, as well as The Wicker Man.

More recently, Lindsay has just finished directing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in Verona, and is working on the opera The Magic Flute in Livorno, Italy, where he now lives. His appearance at the Customs House has been arranged by Shields-born photographer, curator and author Garry Hunter, with support from the Cultural Spring.

Sylvia added: “He did shows in London recently and I went down to see him, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him again when he comes to South Shields.

“People should go along to the show because he’s a very interesting man with a wonderful story to tell.”

David Bowie attended Lindsay Kemp's dance class.

David Bowie attended Lindsay Kemp's dance class.

An Encounter with Lindsay Kemp is on at the Customs House on Tuesday, September 20. Tickets for the 7.30pm show cost £10. To book, go to www.customshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 454 1234.

Lindsay Kemp, far right, in a school play in 1952. Sylvia Lambert is the girl brandishing acane and wearing a mortar board.

Lindsay Kemp, far right, in a school play in 1952. Sylvia Lambert is the girl brandishing acane and wearing a mortar board.

Lindsay also taught Kate Bush to dance.

Lindsay also taught Kate Bush to dance.

Lindsay Kemp is coming home to South Shields.

Lindsay Kemp is coming home to South Shields.

Lindsay Kemp (right) with Garry Hunter.

Lindsay Kemp (right) with Garry Hunter.

The Royal Merchant Navy School in Berkshire where Sylvia Lambert met Lindsay Kemp.

The Royal Merchant Navy School in Berkshire where Sylvia Lambert met Lindsay Kemp.