Encore as stage-school graduates look forward to reunion 48 years on

The Jewish-run stage and dance school boasts famous alumni including Barbara Windsor, Elaine Paige and Jean Simmons


The Aida Foster Stage School reunion promises to be more glamorous than the typical secondary school get-together.

The Jewish-run stage and dance school, which was established in 1929, boasts famous alumni including Barbara Windsor, Elaine Paige and Jean Simmons.

Its location in Golders Green, North-West London meant it attracted many stage-struck pupils from the local Jewish community.

Vivian Benveniste, who attended the school in the 1950s, is organising the reunion. The 72-year-old is hoping famous faces will be among those at the event due to take place next week at a North-West London hotel.

She remembers arriving at the school along with other Jewish students, as a “terribly shy girl.”

She said the school “cured that” and she went on to perform in pantomime alongside household names such as Sir Bruce Forsyth.

“My first day was in 1957 and I was 11,” she recalled. “The school was very popular with Jewish families — everyone wanted their child to go there.

“I had the best time, the dance and music lessons brought me out of my shell and I loved to perform. It gave me confidence.”

She hopes the reunion will encourage hundreds of former students to share their memories.

Grazina Frame, was 11 when she started at the school full time. “I was there till I was 17 and I was head girl. It was incredible. Aida was a glamorous Jewish lady and I remember she would arrive each day in her chauffeur-driven car.

“We had our normal lessons in the morning and we got on with the dancing and music and acting in the afternoon.”

Now 70, Mrs Frame, who lives in Mill Hill, said she was desperate to go to the school. “I only ever wanted to be on the stage. I used to write to the BBC and sit outside the studio when it was in Alexandra Palace.”

She said her tiny frame, blond hair and blue eyes made her “perfect for what casting directors of the time were looking for. I had that look. My first job was for the BBC. I got a part singing with the band in the show Jack In The Box.”

Mrs Frame went on to act in BBC dramas and starred alongside singer Max Bygraves, at the London Palladium.

Former pupil Laurel Ingram, 67, recalled that “there were a lot of Jewish pupils at the school and we could all take the Jewish holidays very easily because Aida was Jewish.

“Her presence was very strong, and she was strict we stood up when she came in and we wouldn’t sit till she left.”

Mrs Ingram attended the school between 1960 and 1965 — it closed in 1970. She said: “It was a proper stage school. I had lots of modelling jobs for Marks and Spencer and BHS after I left.”

She went on to become a secretary before having a family. But she has never stopped dancing. “I teach Zumba seven classes a week. I love it, I’m a performer,” she said.

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