I really had no idea that the concert I was invited to attend by my good friend Dawn Wilson was anything other than an evening of songs from the musicals until I arrived and realised that the youngsters taking part all had a common interest – Stardust
James, Alice, Emily, Emily, Martha, Rosy and Stephenson were the performers and did a fantastic job of entertaining the sell out audience with their renditions of songs from popular musicals and shows, a lot of the songs I recognised and loved, while others were less well known but equally enjoyable. I recognised at least one of the team, Stephenson, who had performed in a show I’d seen previously, The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe – Lincoln Minster School.
The group had obviously worked hard on the programme, choosing a great variety of music, showing comedy, romance as well as showcasing all their individual talents, they obviously all had a great time performing, as much as the audience, and I, loved their performances.
The pianist did a fabulous job with some of the accompaniment, and also a lovely solo piece, and the young lad behind the curtain manning the music and backing tracks also did a great job, thankfully he got his chance to join the team on stage at the end for his well earned bow!
The whole show was professional and its fabulous to see such great talent in our local community. I for one, can’t wait to see where these young people end up – I’m sure we’ll be watching some of them performing on much bigger stages in the years that come. Well done to all!
I believe across both the matinee and evening performance raised a fabulous £1,010 and an NCS coffee morning the day after in Louth raised £460. There was also a sponsor for the event, NFH Consultancy Ltd so now have £2,165 and are able to offer all 15 students selected a fully funded place this term!
For those that may not have heard of Stardust before, here’s some background information:
More than 11 million people in the UK are classified as disabled; figures made up primarily of adults over the age of 65, but also including children and young adults, who for one reason or another, face more day to day obstacles than the average person. While suitable education and extracurricular groups are often accessible for under 19’s with additional needs, choices are limited for young adults. Sara Sprague, a Lincolnshire mother, certainly found this to be the case when her daughter, Brianna, recently left school to begin her adult life in the community. In this unique story, you will see how Sara, Brianna and her family challenged the odds, and their relentless determination has shown that they are far more than just a statistic.
Following her first performance in “Peter Pan” Brianna became an active member of the Lincoln theatre group ‘New Youth Theatre’ from the age of six, where she had the freedom to express herself through song and dance, despite being non-verbal for many years. A brain injury at just three days old limited Brianna’s development, and although she was just months behind her peers hitting milestones as an infant, the gap soon began to show. Access to equine therapy allowed Brianna to walk at two and a half, but when she began to fall behind her peers significantly, her parents discovered ‘FISDAC Academy’ which enabled her to continue with her love of musicals, whilst also being able to accommodate Brianna’s additional needs.
Unfortunately, the effects of puberty caused Brianna to suffer up to fifteen epileptic seizures each day, but by the age of sixteen they had increased to over 100. The inability to socialize or even achieve an enjoyable quality of life could later have become detrimental to her mental health, had Sara not begun to look for alternatives. The organisation “Chicken Shed”, a ‘fully inclusive’ theatre group looked ideal but was based in London, while the only similar, existing groups in Lincolnshire ran only as evening classes, and so were inaccessible to Brianna, as her epilepsy limits her to just a few hours of activity each day.
In 2014, Brianna joined St Francis School in Lincoln, which was equipped to cope with her additional needs in a safe environment, allowing her to reach her full potential. Through the school Brianna was able to participate in more theatre productions, even taking on main roles as her confidence grew, but in 2016 concerns were raised about how the young people could continue their passion for drama upon leaving school. Discussions with parents, Rachel Pavitt and Jo Slack, around the issue inspired Sara to formulate plans for a unique theatre group in Lincolnshire, specifically for young people ages 18-25, with additional needs, enabling Brianna and her peers to maintain their love for musicals and performing.
Quickly, the idea began to become a reality, and with fund raising events organised, and huge support from the Lincolnshire charity “Every-one”, the goal for STARDUST was to start sessions in September 2017. The unique organisation will be able to provide for up to 15 students per term, running from 9:50am-12:15pm on Thursday mornings, at St Francis school, with the sessions delivered by ‘New Youth Theatre’. STARDUST is built on the ethos of ‘Inclusion, Creativity, Positivity, Choice’, but funding is still desperately needed in order to deliver these sessions, as well as providing similar classes on weekends and in other areas of the country in the future.
On top of basic care needs, extra-curricular groups like STARDUST are a vital resource for these young people, as well as their carers. A local NCS group are currently working to raise awareness of the social issues around young adults in this instance, as well as raising funds for the new drama group. Organisations like STARDUST provide an essential and valuable safe haven for young adults like Brianna; in an environment where they can meet and make friends, while enjoying a shared passion for singing, dancing and performing, as well as the sense of achievement that comes with it. If you would like to be a part of making this dream a reality, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The group have found their song which epitomises their ethic and really tells the story of what they’re all about – they ended the performance with this rousing rendition!