A PERFORMING arts school soon to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary is facing upheaval after hitting financial problems.

Ridley Studios, in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, has closed its premises and split into two, with the acting and dance schools going their separate ways.

The full-time performing arts college for 16 to 18-year-olds, which opened in 1955, is using space at the Morgan Academy Performing Arts, now in Fillebrook Avenue, Leigh.

It is being run by eight teachers under Joe Elliott, 28, who has returned after stepping down as principle of Ridley Studios in August, when he got a job offer he “could not refuse”.

Meanwhile, Aisha Hodges, the acting principal of Ridley Studios following Mr Elliot’s resignation, is using church halls in Westcliff to run a part-time dance school, Absolute Arts.

Despite hitting hard times, Mr Elliott remains positive about the school, whose past pupils include Ricky Champ from BBC3 comedy series Him&Her.

He said: “No one has missed any classes, there has been no break from studies. The students are auditioning for degrees at top universities and we are still accredited with examining body Edexcel, who have been to see where we are and are happy.

“I never formally resigned and am back running the college.

“Because there is a recession, we could no longer afford the rent.

But we hope to move into a new arts centre with the Morgan Academy, in London Road, Leigh, in September. Itwas just easier for us to split when we moved.”

The Ridley Studios is now facing legal action over unpaid rent and its website has been suspended after the school went into arrears with web host company Signright, in West Road, Westcliff.

Absolute Arts, run by Mrs Hodges and husband Harry, 25, both directors of Ridley Studios, now has its own new website saying it is using St Bernard’s School and Crowstone Church for classes, while Ridley Studios has a new Twitter account.

The Echo contacted Absolute Arts and Mr and Mrs Hodges responded by e-mail to say Absolute Arts was not connected to Ridley Studios.

Asif Raja, 42, director of Sports House, the landlord of the Hamlet Court Road premises, said: “There were rent arrears and this is now with our solicitor.”