Much-loved Banbury dancer, actor and musician remembered with community fundraiser event

Charity football tournament and community event launched to help fund headstone for much-loved actor known locally as Banbury’s Billy Elliott.

By Matt Elofson
Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 11:27 am
A fundraiser has been launched to help the family of Conor Dowers. Photo: Conor performs Summer Holiday with Odyssey Youth (photo submitted by the family)
A fundraiser has been launched to help the family of Conor Dowers. Photo: Conor performs Summer Holiday with Odyssey Youth (photo submitted by the family)

A fundraiser event has been launched in memory of a much-loved local musician, dancer and actor known locally as Banbury’s Billy Elliott.

Conor Dowers a well known musician, actor and dancer tragically passed away at the age of 22 on December 21, 2020. He was a student in his final year at the prestigious stage school, the Urdang Academy in London.

Close family friends Tiana Riley, Sylvia Riley and Dawn Bennett have organised a charity football tournament to help the family pay for a headstone for Conor. The football tournament will be this Sunday June 27 from 10am to 6pm at Wykham Park Academy, Ruskin Road, Banbury.

A charity football tournament will be held in memory of Conor Dowers on Saturday June 26

The, six-a-side friendly football tournament, has proven very popular.

Tiana said: "All the teams completely filled up and sold out within 24 hours. I had to expand it from 12 to 16 teams. All the boys are really excited."

The community event will also include assorted stalls, food, entertainment and a petting corner with goats. The event is £2 per person for general admission and £5 per family (two adults and two children).

The football tournament will be followed by an auction at the Banbury Cross Pub. There are also lots of raffle prizes with tickets on sale at Banbury Cross Pub. Raffle tickets are also available from Dawn Bennett via direct message on Facebook.

Conor Dowers performs Singin’ in the Rain with Odyssey Youth (Image submitted by the family)

Some of the auction's top items include a signed Scott McTominay Manchester United football shirt (also signed by several teammates) and a signed John McGinn Aston Villa shirt.

Social distancing and other Covid regulations will be followed at the event, which is allowed under Government guidelines as an outdoor charitable event.

Tiana added: "I've known Conor for 19 years. When we were two we met at the Sharon Green Dance Academy.

"I am just trying to help raise money for a headstone. I know Conor would've done this for anybody. He was just a really loved boy.

Conor Dowers performs at the Stratford on Avon College Show (Image submitted by the family)

"Conor was one of those lads who could turn his hand at anything, and football was one of those things. He was a professional dancer, but he was good at football too."

Conor attended dance classes from the age of 2 with his sister, Francesca.

He trained in ballet, tap and modern with the Sharon Green Academy of Dance and Musical Theatre. He attended Scottish dance classes with the Acushla Highland Dancing School (now Rosewood Highland Dancing School) where he performed with Pipe Major Steve Duffy and the Scots Guards for the Queen in The Beating Retreat, The Berlin Tattoo and many other events.

He went onto train as a Saturday Associate at the London Studio Centre whilst at Stratford Upon Avon College. Conor also performed in the curtain raiser for Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Conor Dowers performing the sword dance (Image submitted by the family)

Conor was famous in Banbury and known locally as Banbury’s Billy Elliott, having played the leading role as a student of Banbury School aged 12 years. He finished his final year at school playing the older Simba in The Lion King.

Conor grew up on stage performing in many amateur dramatic theatre group shows including, Odyssey Youth, YOBOS and The Lynden Players. His last roles were as the leads in Pippin and Singin’ in the Rain.

His mother Susan said: "Conor inspired many boys to start dancing and to go into musical theatre. I was very proud of him.

"Conor’s funeral took place on Saturday, 23rd January at Bodicote Church where he was christened. It was his final performance, a celebration of his life as a son, friend and his life on stage, where he loved to be. Following the service, the hearse paused at the ballet school where everyone clapped their hands for Conor in respect.

"Conor was laid to rest at Bodicote Cemetery. His great Nan and Uncle Andrew are buried there. There were three singers at the burial: Josh Berrie, Joseph Bruce and Isaac Stuart who wrote his own song for Conor: ‘Keep on Dancing’.

"The family would like to thank Edd Frost from Edd Frost and Daughters, Rev Dan McGowan, Steve, Mandy and Will Duffy and Sharon and Allan Green for all their help with Conor’s service.

One of the dance moves performed by Conor Dowers (Image submitted by the family)

"The family are very grateful to everyone who came out to pay their respects for Conor."

Conor Dowers university photo (Image submitted by the family)