1032. Jen Blackwell
Jen Blackwell, from Lancashire, founded ‘DanceSyndrome’ in 2009 to help people living with disabilities to improve their dancing skills.
Jen, who has Down’s syndrome, struggled to find a dance course that was disability friendly and would help her pursue her dream of a career in community dance. She decided to set up ‘DanceSyndrome’ and run inclusive dance workshops across Greater Manchester. Her dance classes attract 100 participants each week and every year their performances reach audiences of over 6,000 people. Jen’s dance group have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and City Hall in London, challenging perceptions of disabled people and sharing her message of inclusivity.
In a personal letter to Jen, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“Through ‘DanceSyndrome’ you have created an accessible environment where people of all abilities can share your love of dance. Your community workshops and performances are improving the fitness and wellbeing of young people with learning difficulties and sending a positive message about the importance of inclusion.”
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Jen’s local MP for Chorley, said:
“Congratulations to Jen on her huge success with ‘DanceSyndrome’ and with her deserved Points of Light award. It is clear that dance workshops like these should be available to all and I am keen to learn more about how they can help individuals meet personal challenges at the same time as entertain audiences at massive events like the Edinburgh Fringe.”
“I’m so thrilled to be recognised by the Prime Minister! Dancing is my life, I am passionate about dance and about supporting people like me to have opportunities in the dance world. Winning this award shows that people with learning disabilities can do amazing things with their lives if given a chance.”
Watch to find out more about ‘DanceSyndrome’ and how the charity works: