Birmingham set to host new Irish Dance Feis

John Carey

John Carey

Birmingham is set to become the centre of the Irish dancing world this month when the city stages its first major championship.

The Birmingham Irish Dancing Championship is being organised by the Carey Academy and will take place at Warwickshire Cricket Ground in Edgbaston, on February 14 and 15.

More than 1,000 dancers are expected to take part in the event, with participants expected to arrive in the city from the four corners of the globe.

As well as dance schools in the UK and Ireland competitors will be coming from countries further afield, including America, Australia, Canada and Russia.

The event is being master-minded by John Carey, whose Carey Academy is based in Perry Barr.

Prior to setting up his dance school, the 36-year-old was one of the leading Irish dancers of his generation.

Born in Sutton Coldfield, John started to learn Irish dancing at the Doherty Academy at the age of seven, becoming a Great Britain champion at the age of nine.

The following year he won every major title, the youngest person ever to achieve this feat. He went on to win eight World Championships, six All Ireland, 11 Great Britain and five North American titles.

At the age of 17 John was invited to join the original cast of Riverdance and he and Catriona Hale became the first English dancers to join the show.

A gifted student also, he was awarded a place at Oxford University to study chemistry but his career took another turn when he was invited to join Michael Flatley’s then new show Lord of the Dance.

He put his place at Oxford on hold for a year and was immediately appointed as Michael’s understudy and helped with the choreography of the show.

When Michael tore a calf muscle three weeks in to the show’s run John stepped in and received rave reviews and standing ovations.

He later took the lead dancer role full time and performed at The Oscars, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

After four years touring the wold John returned to Birmingham to teach Irish dancing, initially with the Doherty Academy, before setting up his own school.

The forthcoming championship has been made possible with the help of Birmingham City Council, who helped secure Edgbaston cricket ground as the venue for the event.

Carey Academy staff member Phil Haughton said: “When John does something, he wants it to be absolutely top dollar.

“This is extremely big for Birmingham, which has twice failed to be a city of culture. Bringing this to Birmingham could help that cause.

“The biggest competition is the World Championships, then there’s the All Irish and All American.

“This will be the biggest in England, apart from the nationals.”

Since it was set up the Carey Academy has been a huge success, landing more than 20 world titles and seeing around 30 per cent of its Irish dance students go on to become professional dancers.

The Birmingham contest will have two full-size championship stages with a separate room for recalls to keep the competitions moving and running to time.

The event will see The Irish Dancer (www.theirishdancer.co.uk) selling shoes, socks, glue, hair accessories and all feis requirements.

Speaking ahead of the event, John said: “We look forward to welcoming people to Birmingham in February and wish them all a successful weekend of dancing.”

*The Harp is sponsoring a trophy at the Birmingham Irish Dancing Championship