Dedicated Northamptonshire Festival of Dance organiser told about well-earned BEM award weeks before she passed away

'Kathy was a warm, generous person... with an unswerving faith in the potential of children'

Friday, 16th October 2020, 7:15 am
Kathleen Forsyth

One of the main organisers of a Northamptonshire school dance competition was told she had received a medal from the Queen weeks before she passed away.

Kathleen Forsyth was given a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Northamptonshire Festival of Dance in Her Majesty's Birthday Honours list, announced last week.

The 86-year-old Great Billing resident, known as Kathy, was told in June, having only recently stopped volunteering for the annual contest. Sadly, she passed away on August 23.

The Cabinet Office allowed her family to mention the honour at her funeral on September 14, the day before what would have been her 87th birthday.

Festival treasurer Sandi Allen told this newspaper: "Kathy was a warm, generous person with a mischievous sense of humour, an uncanny ear for impersonation, and an unswerving faith in the potential of children."

Northampton Festival of Dance, which first began around 50 years ago, is a competitive dance festival allied to the All England Dance competition.

It runs for six days over the Easter school holidays each year and involves well over 1,000 dances of various forms for children and young people from dance schools across the county between the ages of four and 21.

Kathy joined the committee 40 years ago and for the last 25 years was secretary, taking on the advance scheduling and organisation before sitting alongside the adjudicator all six days to record their comments and marks.

Sandi said Kathy insisted on handwriting every note she took, doubling the work, which she continued to do unaided until she was 80, when the treasurer lent a hand and showed her Excel.

"Over the last year or two she found it increasingly difficult and reluctantly passed on the jobs to others, but nevertheless remained on the committee and insisted on being at the festival every day," she added

"Like all of us on the committee, she took great pleasure in watching the young people’s development from novices into amazing dancers and had some wonderful memories of competitors who have gone on to careers in dance or whose children and even grandchildren are now taking part."

In addition to her work with the festival, Kathy also she set up an infant school in Singapore for the children of the British Armed Forces posted there, which continued until troops left the country in 1971.

Back in the UK, Kathy also became involved with meals on wheels for Northampton General and Manfield hospitals, serving on the committee for some years.

Her family and fellow volunteers have felt she deserved to be featured on the Queen's honours list for a long time, first applying 10 years ago.

Sandi said: "She smiled a bit when she was told, which was completely in line with her as she was always very modest - she had a wicked sense of humour - so it came just in time and was well-deserved."