Jen Blackwell, Founder of DanceSyndrome, has been announced as one of the most influential people with a disability in the UK for the third year in a row!
The Shaw Trust Disability Power List 100 is an annual publication of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK. The list is compiled by an independent judging panel. Baroness Jane Campbell was the chair of the 2020 judging panel and has fought for equal rights for disabled people for as long as she can remember – from challenging special school segregation as a child, to public demonstration, and now advocates for disabled people in the House of Lords. The list is usually celebrated with a launch event in London, but this year the celebrations took place online via a livestream event on Wednesday 21 October.
DanceSyndrome is still thriving 11 years after Jen founded the charity. Despite the challenges presented in 2020 by the coronavirus, we have had a positive year. After closing face to face workshops in March, we have successfully adapted to offering online dance and are now offering outdoor dance sessions too. We have successfully secured funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, Arts Council England, Comic Relief, Sport England, Onward and Care Housing Association to ensure that people with learning disabilities are not disproportionately isolated and disadvantaged by the lockdown.
This inclusive approach to dance has resulted in Jen, 38 from Chorley, being included on the Power List for the third consecutive year.
Jen said: “Oh wow. I can’t believe I’ve won again for the third year. This is amazing! Thank you Shaw Trust and everyone for believing in me, for valuing me for the person I am. It means the world to me. I owe my life to my fellow dance leaders. I am giving them their lives in dance, and they are giving me mine. I didn’t have a life in dance before, and now I do. My dream is coming true.”
Jen was also recognised in September by local networking group Pink Link Ladies, who host an annual awards ceremony for business women in the North West called the EVAs. This year they were forced to do things differently because of lockdown, so to celebrate their tenth year they are celebrating ten EVA Stars. These are ladies who have won EVA’s in the past and have really stood out as superstars. Jen won the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award at the 2015 EVAs and was thrilled to be recognised again as an EVA Star in 2020!
Introducing our second EVA Star – the fabulous Jen Blackwell, Founder of @DanceSyndrome
Discover more about Jen – plus all the latest news from #EVAS10 – in our latest newsletter: https://t.co/DrkcAnDQ9A#womeninbusiness #awards pic.twitter.com/VbjYlfyJaE
— The EVAs (@Eva_Awards) September 6, 2020
This video shows Jen’s reaction when her mum Sue told her the exciting news:
Sue sharing the news with Jen – she’s an @Eva_Awards star! #love and #respect abound at @DanceSyndrome #inclusion is what we do every step of the way #dance is our language! Feeling so incredibly #valued #loved #welcome #wanted #abilitynotdisability #DownSyndrome pic.twitter.com/wQBcon4Os1
— DanceSyndrome (@DanceSyndrome) September 4, 2020
If you want to join Jen and her fellow Dance Leaders in their Zoom sessions, you can find out more on our Events page. If you would like to support our work with a donation, you can donate directly through the form below, or there are other donation options on our Fundraising page.