JULIE Barker, 47, has lived in South Ockendon all her life and owns the Tip Toe Stage School and Scalliwags Preschool.

In February, she won a civic award for supporting local communities. The Tip Toe Stage School, which provided dancers for the Olympic celebrations in 2012, has its annual show at the Towngate Theatre, in Basildon, on September 13 and 14. Tickets are available at www.towngate theatre.co.uk Q): Tell us a little bit about the schools you run?

A: Tip Toe opened in 1986, so it is one of Thurrock’s longestserving stage schools. I started with three pupils and we now have more than 100 performers, ranging from 18 months to 70.

We offer classes in all genres of dance, as well as drama, singing, piano and anything else you can mention. My teachers balance their teaching with their lives in the West End and in films and on TV. Scalliwags was opened by my mum nearly 50 years ago.

When she passed away seven years ago, I took the reins.

Q: You have won a community award, how pleasing was that?

A: It was one of the biggest highlights of my career. I was nominated by a parent and I found the whole ceremony both emotional and overwhelming.

Q: What are the best things about Thurrock?

A: There is so much! It annoys me that people often run the borough down when they have the power to change things if they want. For me, the sense of community is great.

Q: Running a pre-school and a stage school, how excited are you about the High House Production Park and Royal Opera House being in the borough?

A: I think it is great and we should be celebrating it. But what I really want to see is the opportunities for local people to get involved – give our young people the chance to experience things. I really hope the powers that be don’t make it elitist.

Q: How do you see the future for the borough?

A: The council is constantly focusing on regeneration, with projects like DP World etc, which is great. But I would like it to consider what the impact is on the borough – the human face of the changes. It’s great having these modern sites, but please concentrate on our housing, streets and village halls.

Q: If you could change one thing, what would it be?

A: The state of our roads.

Apparently, the council pays for a consultant to focus on potholes.

I would like to see them earning their money and getting our roads fixed.

Q: What do youmost like about the Thurrock Gazette?

A: That it is “our” paper – it reports on what is important to us as residents in a fair and intelligent way.

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