Days before her 85th birthday, Norah Button of Liverpool Theatre School is having double the fun after receiving a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the King’s New Year Honours list.
At Liverpool Theatre School, she is referred to as “Miss Norah” with affection. She received recognition for her lifetime contribution to dance and her dedication to enhancing opportunities for the city’s youth.
The legendary teacher has dedicated her life to turning talented young performers into stars through her bThrough her beloved Liverpool Theatre School, which was started by her grandmother in 1939, the same year Norah was born, the legendary teacher has dedicated her life to transforming talented young performers into stars.
Graduates of this centre of excellence have gone on to become professional performers for decades, starring in everything from Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and the West End production of Frozen to SIX, Blood Brothers, and Les Misérables.
Having been a gifted actor in her own right, Norah led Liverpool Theatre School for more than 50 years after her grandmother fell ill. Maxine Ellis, a former pupil of Norah’s who co-managed the performing arts school until taking over as sole principal in 2011, joined her in the early 1990s. Norah is still teaching and inspiring students in spite of her young age, and she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
Speaking on appearing in the New Year Honours List, Norah, who lives in Mossley Hill with her husband Jim, said:
“It was such a lovely surprise to find out I was being awarded the BEM. Nurturing young talent is my passion and it’s very nice to be recognised for doing one of the things I love most. I’m just about to turn 85 so it’s almost like an early birthday present, we’ll definitely be having a double celebration.
“I’ll never tire of watching Liverpool Theatre School students and graduates performing, seeing them light up the stage fills me with so much pride. Theatre is my life and I feel very lucky to have been part of this wonderful industry for so long, both as a teacher and a performer. My family always ask when I plan to retire but I’ll never give up teaching, it’s what keeps me young.”
At the age of 83, Norah graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a Masters in Musical Theatre and Drama, making her one of the oldest students in Britain and demonstrating the lifelong nature of learning. The unstoppable eighty-year-old recovered from a quadruple heart bypass and finished her final dissertation. Before surgery, she even entertained the other patients by doing a ballet on the ward.
In addition to winning 19 pageants in the 1960s, the former beauty queen is recognised for choreographing Sir Ken Dodd’s Diddymen in all of his productions. In recognition of her work with Liverpool Theatre School in dance, singing, and drama, she was granted Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2010.
Maxine Ellis, Principal at Liverpool Theatre School, said:
“It’s fantastic to see Miss Norah recognised in the King’s New Year Honours. She’s dedicated a lifetime to teaching young people at Liverpool Theatre School and we’re all incredibly proud to see her receive such a special award.”
Throughout her career, Norah has dedicated herself to increasing the accessibility of professional training for all young performers with talent, especially those from working-class backgrounds. One of her most important accomplishments was bringing the government-funded Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA) to Liverpool Theatre School. The Centre of Excellence is the only stage school in Merseyside and one of only 15 in the nation to provide DaDA funding, which helps talented students who might not otherwise be able to pay for professional training.
In 2018, Liverpool Theatre School became the first stage school in the nation to do away with audition fees, a move that inspired many others to follow suit. A number of fully funded spots and bursaries for prestigious Trinity and BTEC training programmes in dance, musical theatre, and performing arts are available each year at this “outstanding” school, rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
Find out more about Liverpool Theatre School on their website.