The Prime Minister has today, 25 October, recognised Jen Blackwell, from DanceSyndrome ( https://www.lancashare.co.uk/directorydetail/entertainment-arts-leisure/dancesyndrome ) for helping 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 set up ‘DanceSyndrome’ in 2009 to 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.
Jen is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
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.”
Jen is the 1032nd winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA. Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.
Regardless of whether it’s a doctor restoring local monuments in her free time, a father teaching young people life skills, or a local musician giving a voice to lonely people, the Points of Light award honours shining examples of volunteering across the UK.