Keep Dancing: The amazing career of a local stage star

Jean Daniel in wearing her ENSA uniform. Photograph taken in Paris, 1944.

Jean Daniel in wearing her ENSA uniform. Photograph taken in Paris, 1944.

In late 2016 the Museum acquired a new addition to its collection, a large framed handkerchief with embroidered autographs of some of the stars of the stage from the last century. Names include Gracie Fields, Jimmy James, Elizabeth French, Eamon Andrews, Bertha Williams and the Lantry Trio among many others.

The autographs were collected by Nuneaton resident Jean Daniel (1926-2016) over the course of her remarkable career. Jean Daniel, nee Raynor, performed in her first professional pantomime aged 12 with the Coventry Babes in 1938. During the Second World War she was posted in Paris with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) where she helped to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel. In her early career Jean was a Tiller Girl, performing at the London Coliseum.

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Jean danced in London with the Tiller Girls.

Jean’s career took her around the world on cruise ships but she continued to perform and contribute to the cultural life of the Borough. Jean performed in plays in Nuneaton, sometimes alongside her husband Ken, ran Miss Raynor’s Dance School and helped with the Festival of Arts. When Jean worked alongside a famous performer she would ask them to sign the handkerchief. These autographs were later embroidered, we believe by the artist Vera Hodgkinson, a friend of Jean’s.

Jean died aged 90 in 2016. We were very touched that she wanted the scarf to be given to the Museum and hope that it will evoke memories for those who see it. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has memories either of Jean or of attending Miss Raynor’s Dance School. Please email Becky at becky.harvey@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk.

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Do you remember Miss Raynor’s Dance School?

Photographs courtesy of Josephine Birch.

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