Lancashire-based charity DanceSyndrome wins video award

DanceSyndrome founder Jen Blackwell performs a solo dance for the video created by Jennifer Smith
DanceSyndrome founder Jen Blackwell performs a solo dance for the video created by Jennifer Smith

Lancashire-based charity DanceSyndrome is celebrating after a video about its work won a Mencap Journalism Award.

Student Jennifer Smith, of Preston, contacted DanceSyndrome asking if the charity would be interested in featuring in a short video documentary to be entered into the awards competition.

She became aware of the charity as a result of the Red Rose Awards, where DanceSyndrome was awarded Not-for-profit of the Year.

Jennifer was inspired by the charity’s “ability not disability” ethos and thought that the dancers would be the perfect subject for her competition entry.

She created an emotive video which addressed the issue that there are 1.4m people in the UK with a learning disability and 50 per cent of those people experience chronic loneliness.

When interviewed by Jennifer, DanceSyndrome managing director Dawn Vickers, said: “We are about shouting about the talents, the abilities and the skills of our Dance Leaders who have learning disabilities. Friendships are made. People have a great time. New skills are learned. But the joy and happiness factor is there all the time and is essential to everything that we do. “

Jennifer said: “I loved every single minute I spent with DanceSyndrome, the members are an incredibly inspiring charity and to win the award is testament to the wonderful work they do.”

The award judges commented that part of the reason why the video won was because: “Jennifer put people with a learning disability right at the centre of her piece, a style which we know is the most effective at helping to challenge misconceptions and improve attitudes towards learning disability.”

One of those people was DanceSyndrome founder Jen Blackwell, who started the charity after spending 10 years unsuccessfully searching for dance opportunities that could accommodate her disability.

In her video interview, Jen said: “I do have Down’s syndrome but that’s nothing to hold me back. All I can say is go for your dreams. Dream. Believe. Achieve. My dream is to travel the world with my dance.”

Jen’s dreams continue to become reality and on August 14 and 15, DanceSyndrome’s team of dancers are performing in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival.

For a previous story on Jen's dream click here /dancer-with-down-syndrome-is-realising-her-dream-1-8506748