2019 was one of DanceSyndrome’s most successful years to date. It was the year we celebrated 10 years since Jen Blackwell founded the organisation to provide unique opportunities for people with a learning disability. We celebrated in style with a variety of inspiring performances, national recognition and several awards/ accolades!
Here we share some of the highlights of this incredible year!
We started the year with our Founder Jen performing in her role as Ambassador to Team High Sheriff in Manchester and she got a truly amazing response!
Honoured to be present to see a magical dance by Jen Blackwell @DanceSyndrome at the @teamhighsheriff @UKFast. So many inspiring young people inc @McrAcademy students hoping to creating a better future for all. @OneMinuteBriefs . Apologies Jen, I got your Twitter handle wrong. pic.twitter.com/WFmNLM9Zv7
— Sukhbir Singh (@SukhbirJSingh) February 6, 2019
As we moved into March, we had another incredible response, but to something very different and a new experience for us. Our Accrington workshop group gave their first ever dance performance at a high profile International Women’s Day event at Accrington Town Hall. They were the first of our workshop groups to develop and deliver a performance piece and we were so inspired by them that we decided to build on this experience. We are now in a position where we are preparing for our first DanceSyndrome showcase event, which is offering high profile performance opportunities to all our individual workshop groups. (Tickets are available from Blackburn Empire Theatre if you want to see this performance)
March is always a busy time of year for DanceSyndrome and 2019 was no exception! As part of our awareness raising work for Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week, Ambassador and Dance Leader Becky Rich went to meet with Graham Jones, our local MP, who was thrilled to hear about the work that DanceSyndrome is doing at a local level.
Delighted to meet the amazing Becky Rich who works with the Accrington charity DanceSyndrome.Brilliant Becky works so…
The key to our awareness raising, though, was the production of 4 videos about the lives of some of our dancers with Down’s syndrome and their families’ experiences.
Jen’s film was also shown in May at the Nursing Congress Conference “Learning Disability Changing Care for Healthier Futures” and the response was wonderful:
We were asked: what do you see, a dance, or people with disabilities dancing? I (@Ewout1985) say: A Dance! Take a look at some of the breathtaking performances by @DanceSyndrome on their YouTube channel -> https://t.co/o8nBgL9Zu1
— LearningDisability Changing Care-Healthier Futures (@LDChangingCare) May 20, 2019
@DanceSyndrome what an inspirational group!!! Learning disability or not. Anyone can do anything if you have the drive and want to achieve and make changes.#inclusion #equity #improvinglifes #powerifdance #Downsyndrome #learningdisability #inspirational #rcn19 pic.twitter.com/51JmzNitcY
— Becky Herdman (@becky_herdman) May 20, 2019
A few weeks later we helped DanceSyndrome supporter Craig Hartley to publish his first book, a novella called “A Change of Views”. Craig kindly donated all proceeds from the sale of his book to support our work:
— DanceSyndrome (@DanceSyndrome) August 28, 2019
One of the proudest moments in DanceSyndrome’s 10 year history came in June, when we were announced as recipients of the Queens Award for Voluntary Services, the voluntary group equivalent of an MBE. Volunteers are essential to the success of DanceSyndrome’s work and we are absolutely thrilled that our dedicated and hard working volunteers have been recognised with the highest honour!
Congrats to the amazing groups who have been awarded the @QueensAwardVS, the highest award given to UK volunteer groups, equivalent to the MBE! Excited to see Sported members @DanceSyndrome @FYAonroad @pavingtheway121 @DoncasterRC @ysfyp @CookstownYouth on there. #recognition https://t.co/a2bdANZ6qr
— Sported (@sported_UK) June 6, 2019
Over the last two summers our team have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but in 2019 we decided to do something different. We travelled to Watford to deliver a workshop and performance as part of Enrich Festival, a fully inclusive festival celebrating the arts. It was a wonderful experience and our performance was very well received.
We also got a very positive reception at the House of Lords for a prestigious Learning Disability Nurses event on 21st June.
The following day, Jen was excited to receive a Highly Commended award at the She Inspires Awards
And the awards just kept coming! The following week our team attended the national Learning Disability and Autism Awards. They gave a stunning performance before being announced as winners of the People’s Award for 2019!
— Martin J McGuigan (@MJMac88) June 28, 2019
— Sue Bridges (@SueBprof1) June 28, 2019
Part of the reason why we win so many awards is for our unique approach to inclusion and challenging perceptions of learning disabilities. We try to challenge perceptions of what people with learning disabilities are ABLE to do in every aspect of our day to day work, but events like Learning Disability Awareness week give us a unique opportunity to demonstrate why our work is so vital to people with learning disabilities. We produced the film “I am here… we are DanceSyndrome” to celebrate #LDWeek2019 and to try and reframe the way people think about the life of a person with a learning disability.
Another example of changing perceptions came through the national UDance festival in July. This was a real highlight of the year for us. David Corr and Jessica Reid developed a stunning duet piece in early 2019 which was entered for consideration as part of the North West regional UDance Festival. They were chosen to perform at The Lowry in March and were subsequently chosen to represent the North West at the national festival in London in July. We were incredibly proud of David and Jess and the way they performed. They performed on an equal footing with their non-disabled peers and disability was never a consideration while they danced. They were treated as equals by everyone involved in the festival – true inclusion at its best! This is our hope for Society as a whole one day.
Beautiful heartfelt performance from Jess and David last night. And Jess gave everything in the Fitter Stronger Dancer workshop today too! Edel says great job all round 👏
— UoCDanceScience (@UoCDanceScience) 21 July 2019
Moving ahead to September, we had another busy month. One of the highlights was our first public AGM and as you would expect there was lots of dancing!
Yesterday was spent with the brilliant @DanceSyndrome, an AGM and Board Meeting with a difference, and a better one.
These guys! achieved so much in such a short space of time.
— Victoria McCorkell (@VickiMcCorkell) September 20, 2019
Jen Blackwell and David Darcy treated the AGM attendees to a special performance of their 2019 duet piece, which we simply love!
Just six weeks later this duet was performed in London and received a standing ovation from over 800 people!
— Alice Waddington (@aliceLDnurse) November 6, 2019
September also brought more recognition for our work. Jen Blackwell, DanceSyndrome Founder and Director, was thrilled to be featured in the first national Movers List, which was published by The Independent and Lucozade Sport. The list aims to recognise 50 individuals whose volunteering, charity work or dedication to sport and exercise inspires local communities to move more. The list, compiled by Lucozade Sport and judged by sports experts and stars, highlights the amateur sportspeople who are helping get the UK more active.
Jen was thrilled to receive her copy of the Movers List book and personalised Lucozade Sport bottle! You can read more…
Within days Jen was off to the House of Lords for the second time this year, where she was recognised again with a second year on the Shaw Trust Power 100!
Congratulations to our Founder Jen Blackwell who has been included in The Power 100 for the second consecutive year! We're very proud of you Jen!
Jen’s hard work and determination over the last ten years truly makes her worthy of these accolades. DanceSyndrome still has the same mission today that Jen started with in 2009, to provide life changing opportunities for people with and without disabilities in the world of dance. Funding from Spirit of 2012 has enabled DanceSyndrome to really thrive over the last three years and provide so many valuable opportunities, so it was with sadness in September that our three year funded project with Spirit came to a close. Everyone at DanceSyndrome is determined to continue the good work that Spirit enabled us to begin, so we decided to run an ambitious fundraising campaign to enable our vital work to continue. We called this campaign #Perfect10 to celebrate the 10th anniversary and our dancers gave us 10 great reasons why they love DanceSyndrome:
DanceSyndrome has another major funding project that is also in its final year. The National Lottery Community Fund gave us funding in 2017 to work with partnership organisations in Nottingham and Oldham to test how social franchising might work for DanceSyndrome in the future. Working with these groups we have delivered Dance By Example leadership training and Inclusive Approaches training to give the members of the groups the skills they needed to run their own workshops, deliver outreach activities and develop performance skills. In November, the Nottingham group of performers, who have been working together for just less than a year, gave their first public performance. We are incredibly proud of them but, more importantly, they were incredibly proud of themselves and were thrilled with the response from the audience!
Yet another proud moment came on International Day of Persons with a Disability, 3rd December. The DanceSyndrome Dance Leader team were announced as one of the winning teams on the national Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List. This is the second year that DanceSyndrome has been included. Last year, Dance Leader and Ambassador Becky Rich was a winner and she was thrilled to be invited to be a judge for the 2019 list too!
The vibrant and talented Becky from @DanceSyndrome is another incredible judge for this year's Learning Disability and Autism Leaders' List. The 2018 Sports, Arts and Entertainment Leader is thrilled to be part of the panel this year #LDALeadersList2019 https://t.co/uxkLrq9ZZZ pic.twitter.com/lodKE5kfEd
— Dimensions (@DimensionsUK) July 3, 2019
Our final performance of the year came in early December. Our team were proud to be invited to contribute to an exhibition called “The Marketplace and I: Uncovering disability in the market through the medium of art”. The project aimed to share, through the medium of art, the marketplace experiences of persons with disabilities. DanceSyndrome were proud to be asked to provide a dance piece for the project and developed “Strive” which was performed on the opening night of the exhibition.
Wow! What an incredible year! We are looking to the future now and are excited about the opportunities that 2020 might bring! If you are inspired by the work we did in 2019 and would like to find out more about how you can become involved, please visit the Support Us page.
We no longer have major funding to support our core activities, so donations are vital to our future. If everybody who has been inspired by our work could spare £1 a month to support our work, we would be able to fully fund our work.
If you can spare £1 per month to help us, please text DANCE to 70201 or you can donate directly using the form below: