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Regional daily ends successful worldwide search for ‘ballerina girl’

A worldwide search to identify a child in a photograph from almost half a century ago has been solved by a regional daily.

The Birmingham Mail launched its bid last year to find the “little ballerina girl” featured in a photograph taken by American student Janet Mendelsohn in 1968.

The photo of the girl practising ballet had appeared in an exhibition of Ms Mendelsohn’s photographs held at a city art gallery – but neither she nor anyone else had any idea who the girl was.

The picture was taken on Varna Road, in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham, once dubbed “the wickedest road in Britain” at the heart of the city’s red light district.

Lorraine Williams with the photo of her from 1968

Lorraine Williams with the photo of her dating from 1968

Mail readers were encouraged to share the photograph, which had recently been rediscovered, on social media – with the search taking in the USA, Australia and Scandinavia.

The break eventually came when it transpired that other pictures of the ballerina girl and another little girl who looked very similar had been displayed in another exhibition in Birmingham a while ago.

The Mail published some of these photographs and made fresh appeals for help on social media.

Within a few hours several people had responded, all offering the same name for the little ballerina girl – Lorraine Williams – and identifying her twin sister, Wendy.

After the Mail tracked down Lorraine, now 58, she told the newspaper: “I am absolutely amazed over this. To think that you and your readers have been involved in such a big hunt for me, it’s a struggle to take it in.

“I couldn’t believe it when someone showed me the photograph. But it is me and even though it is such a long time ago now, I still vaguely remember it being taken.

“I was always pretending to be a ballerina – ballerinas have always held a fascination for me. They still do. I’ve no idea where this comes from, I must have seen one somewhere. But being a ballerina was one of my dreams.”

After finding Lorraine, the Mail and Birmingham Royal Ballet also arranged a surprise ballet lesson for her.

The Mail’s Andy Richards said:  “Judging from so many appreciative comments received, it suggests that a simple, heartwarming story, told well, can be a real hit.

“In a sense two dreams have now been achieved, her ballerina dream – and mine of finding her and telling her story.”

The original image of the 'Little Ballerina Girl of Balsall Heath' from 1968

The original image of the ‘Little Ballerina Girl of Balsall Heath’ from 1968


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