A Moseley Life: Rita Barker
Friday, 11th July 2014
“I’m like a goat on a tether. I’ve done a lot of my training away from home, and I love travelling, but Moseley is where I always come back to.”
Rita Barker has lived in the area on and off since the age of two, and has no intention of leaving. She started her first business here in 1996 then, together with Gilly Randle, ran Moseley Festival for three years.
“We operated on a very low budget out of my tiny, smelly dance studio above what is now Sainsbury’s. The first year it was free, and it was quite different from how it is now – much smaller, more family orientated, with a big focus on dance as well as music. It was knackering but great fun.”
Rita has long been connected to the world of music through her husband, drummer Micky Barker, who achieved international success with rock band Magnum. But dance is her first love, a passion which started with childhood ballet classes and led to a career as a freelance dance teacher. Before opening her own studio, Rita taught in a variety of centres around Birmingham, including the Dance X Change and the St Columba Church Hall.
“There was often a high turnover of students and no sense of progression. I wanted my own place to be more communal, somewhere to meet for a chat as well as to go to class. I felt very strongly that I wanted it to be available to everybody, part of the community.”
And although The Dance Workshop is very much a personal vision, her family has been involved right from the start. Rita’s daughter, a professional percussionist, teaches at the centre, her son helps with the general management and there are plans to relaunch the recording studio under her husband’s expertise. Rita’s also hoping her grand daughter, eight years old and already crazy about dance, will one day join the family firm.
Although Rita is a long time supporter of Moseley in Bloom and the Moseley Lights, juggling grandmother duties with managing a dance studio doesn’t leave much spare time to get involved with other local projects at the moment.
“Running a business is so demanding. And this isn’t like a pub where you have a guaranteed turnover. You have to reinvent yourself all the time, retrain in different styles, put on classes for whatever the latest fad is. There’s no consistency, and most days I get home after 9.30pm. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Despite the long hours, Rita has plans to develop and expand The Dance Workshop, to include vocational training courses and more daytime classes. But however big her ambition, she can’t imagine moving away from Moseley.
“This is my dream job. I never wanted to run a ballet school for the elite. I love the diversity of Moseley and everything it has to offer. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”