From ‘bag of sugar’ baby to ballet star: Dudley dancer's appeal over dream stage future

By Marion Brennan | Dudley | Dudley entertainment | Published:

He was a 'sugar bag baby' weighing just 2lbs at birth – now, 16 years on, James Garrington is on the verge of a glittering career as a professional ballet dancer.

Ballet student James Garrington during a recent photo shoot at the Black Country Living Museum in his native Dudley

And despite his shaky start to life, the teenager from Dudley is in better physical shape than most boys his age.

Now his daily dance regime has paid off with the offer of a place at the world-renowned English National Ballet School.

"I didn't realise until a couple of years back that I absolutely wanted to pursue ballet as a career," said James.

Ballet student James Garrington is hoping to take up a space at the world-renowned English National Ballet School

"I realised this is actually becoming quite an addiction – it was a challenge to get better and keep pushing forward."

His achievement is made even more remarkable by his roots in traditional, working-class Netherton. While other lads were outside playing football, James was indoors dancing.

His obsession "just wasn't understood" by friends at Hillcrest School in Netherton but he found more support following a move to Birmingham Ormiston Academy, specialising in performing arts.

Ballet student James Garrington during a recent photo shoot at the Black Country Living Museum in his native Dudley


The film Billy Elliott, about a miner's son who faced prejudice for his love of ballet, made him realise "if someone coming from a background like that can become a professional ballet dancer, than a normal person like me can do it."

His mother Caroline Garrington said that as he lay in the special care unit at Wordsley Hospital during the first nine weeks of his life she used to read him inspiring stories pinned on the wall written by other special care babies who had grown up.

"They provided hope at a time of great worry," she said. "We wondered how this early start would affect him but he has surprised us throughout his life."

Ballet student James Garrington at the Black Country Living Museum


With Debonair Dance Academy in Cradley Heath which he attended from the age of five, James has danced at The Royal Albert Hall, the O2 Arena, Sadler's Wells, Her Majesty’s Theatre and Disneyland Paris.

Along the way he has picked up prizes and scholarships including a recent Bronze in the British Ballet Grand Prix and a scholarship for Atlanta Ballet for 2020.

He has been a Royal Ballet associate member and danced with the English Youth Ballet, Alba Ballet in Scotland and participated in Sleeping Beauty Dreams with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Leaping high - Look out for the career of ballet student James to rise
Forged in the Black Country - Meet the talented ballet student James Garrington

His godfather Richard Humphries has launched a Just Giving page to raise £18,000 towards the cost of fees, accommodation, uniform, medical insurance and physiotherapy at ballet school.

He wrote: "We are immensely proud, not simply because he is so talented, but because he has worked incredibly hard to achieve his dream. It would be so frustrating for him not to take his passions further because of funding."

His mother Caroline added: "As a family, we are doing everything we can to support him in this venture but we are looking to raise any further funds to realise this dream."

James' crowdfunding page can be found at

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.


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