Jen Blackwell, DanceSyndrome founder, honoured by The National Lottery on ITV primetime TV


The National Lottery’s ‘Big Surprise’ – which honours the individuals who have made a real difference with the help of National Lottery funding – made a dream come true for our Founder Jen Blackwell!


The ‘Big Surprise’ is a 90-second weekly slot during the ad break of Saturday night primetime ITV shows – meaning Jen achieved national recognition with around 5 million people tuning in.


Jen founded DanceSyndrome in 2009 and we achieved charitable status in 2013. We offer dance leadership training so that people with and without learning disabilities can work together to become dance leaders, with a focus on unlocking their talents and focusing on their abilities, rather than their disabilities. We also offer inclusive dance workshops in community venues across Lancashire and Greater Manchester which are co-led by the dance leaders who complete this unique training. Our dancers also perform at special events across the UK, with the challenging perceptions of disability.


For Jen’s ‘Big Surprise’, The National Lottery arranged for her to meet her hero, Alexandra Burke, at the world-famous Pineapple Dance Studios in London and perform her own specially choreographed dance to the singer’s hit record, ‘Hallelujah!’ The National Lottery filmed the heart-warming results.


Jen said: “I just can’t put into words how I felt. It was just amazing – I was totally lost for words. It was most definitely big hugs all around! I love Alexandra and have always admired her. She is such a fantastic inspiration.”


She continued, “It was incredible to be able to perform for her at Pineapple Dance Studios – something which was totally beyond my wildest dreams. I cannot thank The National Lottery enough, it has literally been a once in a lifetime experience for me and something I will never, ever forget.”



Jen’s ‘Big Surprise’ aired on ITV and STV at 8.15pm during ITV’s primetime Saturday night TV schedule. ‘The Big Surprise’ is the continuation of the return of The National Lottery results to primetime TV and will celebrate and showcase National Lottery funded heroes like Jen from across the UK.


Players raise on average over £30m for National Lottery-funded projects every week across the arts, sports, heritage, health, education, environment, charity and voluntary sectors. In the constituency of Hyndburn, where the DanceSyndrome office is based, over 600 individual National Lottery grants have been allocated which have amounted to around £21 million of funding.


In 2017 DanceSyndrome was awarded £160,000 of National Lottery funding to expand our Everybody Dance programme in Oldham and Beeston. Everybody Dance will engage people with learning disabilities in dance workshops that aim to improve self-esteem, health and social skills whilst reducing isolation. Participants help design and develop the sessions, can gain leadership qualifications and jointly run their own workshops. Outreach taster sessions and performances will inspire people with or without disabilities and change perceptions of disability within the communities of Oldham and Beeston.


You can also see some extended footage about the Big Surprise here:


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If you would like to know more about the Big Surprise, or the National Lottery please visit



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