1. ITV Report

Local charity hero sees her dream come true

Jen Blackwell, founder of DanceSyndrome, met Alexandra Burke at Pineapple Studios Photo: The National Lottery

The dreams of a charity founder from Chorley have come true - and it's set to be screened on primetime TV this weekend.

Jen Blackwell the founder of DanceSyndrome will be honoured by the National Lottery's 'Big Surprise'.

The 36-year-old local hero will get national recognition in the ad breaks of Saturday night primetime on ITV, with around 5 million people are expected to tune in to see Jen get national recognition.

Jen, who has Down’s syndrome, founded DanceSyndrome in 2009. It achieved charitable status four years later and trains people with learning disabilities to become dance leaders, with a focus on unlocking their talents.

The project operates across Lancashire and Greater Manchester with the successful dance leaders holding classes at community venues across the region.

For Jen’s ‘Big Surprise’, The National Lottery arranged for her to meet her heroine, 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 meeting Alexandra Burke will feature on primetime Saturday TV Credit: The National Lottery

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.”

"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 Blackwell
Jen Blackwell, from Chorley, is the founder of charity DanceSyndrome Credit: The National Lottery

Jen’s ‘Big Surprise’ will air on ITV and STV at 8.15pm during the ad break of the Take Me Out Special on Saturday and is the second of 17 short films which will be shown throughout the year, during ITV’s primetime Saturday night TV schedule, that will celebrate and showcase National Lottery funded heroes across the UK.

The National Lottery's 'Big Surprise' arranged for Jen to meet Alexandra Burke at Pineapple Dance Studios Credit: The National Lottery

In 2017 DanceSyndrome was awarded £160,000 of National Lottery funding to help them expand their 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.