Amy Burdon put her life savings into her dance studio. Then, the landlords took it away
‘I’m a single mum, we haven’t got masses of money, we have to be able to trust people’
Dear Millers — in 2017, Amy Burdon set out her vision for her new dance studio in Leigh town centre. It would be somewhere inclusive and affordable, somewhere that didn’t have a pushy “dance mum culture”. And for years, WigLe Dance CIC achieved that — providing cheap dance lessons to local children who couldn’t otherwise afford them, sometimes totally free of charge.
But last Friday, their future was thrown into doubt as a years-long dispute with the property company that owns the building resulted in the landlords unexpectedly seizing the building and locking the doors. In today’s edition, Mollie tells Amy’s story.
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🚄 Trains between London and Manchester could be slower under diluted HS2 plans. As you’ll remember, HS2 to Manchester was cancelled during the Conservative Party conference (held in Manchester) last year. Now, the high speed trains will be diverted onto existing tracks, making already busy lines busier. The HS2 trains will also have to slow down to 115 mph on certain sections of these lines, making them slower than the Avanti West Coast trains already in operation, which can stay at 125 mph. The HS2 trains are too long to stop at stations in Crewe and Manchester, where newer, longer platforms were meant to be built for them. This means they’ll have to be shortened, ultimately giving them less capacity than the trains currently on the lines. "There are a number of scenarios in which the number of seats between London and Manchester could go down," said Sir Jon Thompson, HS2’s executive chair.
⛸ One of the biggest ice rinks in the UK is set to be built in Trafford Park in Stretford. Peel Waters have made a deal with ICITIES to build a rink and surrounding arena on a plot of empty land — previously home to the Soccer Dome. James Whittaker of Peel Waters said the venue could host Olympic athletes and host big crowds looking to watch ice hockey and speed skating. A planning application is expected by the summer. Peel Waters is, of course, part of giant land owner the Peel Group. Last year, we sat down with its chairman: Inside the Peel empire: Is trouble brewing at the company that owns everything?
🌹 Bernadette Gallagher, a longtime Labour activist in Bolton, was expelled from the party last November for liking “fairly innocuous tweets” reports The Bolton News. Gallagher liked tweets from a left wing group calling for a higher living wage and energy nationalisation, some dating back to 2022. Gallagher follows Andrea Egan, a fellow activist, who was ejected from the party last year. “They know I’m quite influential in the CLP (Constituency Labour Party),” Gallagher said. “But nationally they want to be seen as a changed party, so they just want to rid the party of any kind of dissent.”
👗 A BBC Panorama investigation has found that Manchester-based fashion retailer Boohoo labelled clothes made in South Asia as made in the UK. The original labels were removed at the company’s main factory in Leicester. They say this was due to a misinterpretation of labelling rules and “a result of human error.”
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🌹 Tony Lloyd, the veteran Labour MP who has held his seat in Rochdale since 2017, has revealed he has untreatable leukaemia. He said his office will remain open to constituents, and that he will "spend the time I have left with my family".
Amy Burdon put her life savings into her dance studio. Then, the landlords took it away
By Mollie Simpson
An old warehouse on a back street in Leigh, dozens of kids standing in the cold and an eviction notice stuck to the door. It was the first Friday of 2024, a freezing winter’s day, and families were forming a queue to sign up for a trip to Aviva Studios, one of the many cultural offers at WigLe Dance, a community interest company set up to run a dance studio in Leigh town centre.
Amy Burdon, WigLe’s founding director, was getting ready at home when she found out that landlords had seized the building. “Amy, you’ve been evicted,” a friend said over the phone. Amy rushed to the car in her crocs. She weaved through crowds of children to the door of the dance studio. There it was — a letter from the landlord, stuck to the wall with thick brown sellotape.
The notice read: “TAKE NOTICE that M S Properties (Northern) Limited the Landlord of these premises has today re-entered therein in accordance with his power to do so and as a consequence of such re-entry the premises have been secured.”
Amy took a deep breath and directed families towards a coach that was leaving for Manchester.
A dispute with the landlord
Amy’s dance studio was in Leigh town centre, in a slightly rundown former B&M Bargains warehouse. Inside, a cluster of kids would be rehearsing a hip hop dance routine or perfecting a plié. Sometimes, groups of schoolkids would come to visit their friends and giggle and make TikTok videos. Amy didn’t mind. She liked that it felt like a community hub where anyone could drop in.
They moved into the building in September 2017. She signed a 20-year lease, agreeing to pay £1,500 a month plus an annual £900 charge for building insurance. Amy’s granddad helped with the plumbing and she assembled a small but loyal team of seven dance teachers and one operations manager. At its peak, over 300 children came to Amy’s dance studio every week. Sam Brown, the Labour councillor for Leigh West, says many of them were reliant on free school meals and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Occasionally, parents fell behind on paying for lessons. “We know they’re struggling, so we just don’t chase,” Amy tells me privately, when I meet her and another volunteer at WigLe, her mother Derri Burdon, in their local pub.
The problems began within the first three months of moving into the building. What had once felt like a great opportunity — a spacious, empty warehouse that she could fix up and make her own — was becoming unmanageable. By January 2018, black mould was climbing the walls and a cluster of pigeons had nestled in the roof, drawing in spiders and bird mites. Parents began to withdraw their children from dance classes, citing concerns over the building’s safety.
One month later, part of the ceiling had collapsed completely and Amy was feeling desperate. She reached out to her landlords, M S Properties (Northern) Ltd, run by Bradford-based father and son duo Saeed Mohammed and Khalid Mohammed, who she says made a verbal agreement to suspend the lease while they made renovations to the building. Until Amy moved back in, she wouldn’t have to pay any more rent, they are said to have assured her. In a statement to The Mill, M S Properties denies such an agreement was made, and maintains that WigLe owe “considerable debt”.
Amy alleges that M S Properties have not honoured this agreement and that the landlords have taken advantage of her goodwill and patience. She estimates that since she began renting from M S Properties in 2017, she has paid the landlords over £90,000 in rent and insurance charges, and has only spent a total of two and a half years in the building — having been forced out the rest of the time due to flooding, black mould and a collapsing ceiling. M S Properties counters that we have been given “extremely limited information” about the communication between the parties involved, but refused to elaborate further on “private commercial matters”.
But while M S Properties are unable to share enough information for me to be able to parse their claims, Amy and Derri have also put me in a difficult position. They say they are unable to share specific email exchanges that could offer evidence of agreements set out between themselves and the landlord. Derri describes another verbal agreement made sometime around 2019: that given the scale of the issues at the dance studio, Amy was entitled to take how much she was spending on repairs off her monthly rent, which she tracked in a spreadsheet that she shared with the landlord. We asked to also see this spreadsheet, but we were told they’d need to check the figures first.
After the initial repairs in 2018, WigLe finally re-opened the following summer. She says this felt like a hopeful period — class sizes were growing again, and she was busy planning a dance festival, where children from her classes could have a taste of performing to a live audience. A clause in the tenancy agreement states that the landlord is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the building, which includes the ceiling and the electrical works, but that the interiors are the responsibility of the tenant. Amy successfully bid for £50,000 in funding from Sport England to improve the building and invested in professional dance flooring that would create a small bounce and flex under impact.
But this halcyon period couldn’t last. When we meet in the local pub in Leigh, Amy describes damp in the kitchen, black mould, bug infestations and faulty electrical works. Class sizes dwindled again, and with her income reduced, she says she had to take on another full-time teaching job just to subsidise the repairs. Then she noticed something.