Back to The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018

DanceSyndrome Dance Leaders

Category: The 2019 Oliver McGowan Award for Sports, arts and entertainment

After every major success, the Dance Leaders continue to strive to achieve bigger and better opportunities for all the involved.

Welcome to the DanceSyndrome family

DanceSyndrome have been celebrated by the Prime Minister and the Queen, but what they value most is their self-declared dance family.

As with any close knit family, they have supported each other through thick and thin. The team have experienced physical and mental health challenges, financial struggles, bereavements and changes to support.

But, together, they’ve danced over the hurdles and around the obstacles.  Now it’s time for you to meet the DanceSyndrome family…

Tell us about the Dance Leader Team

The Dance Leader Team is a group of 15 individuals with different disabilities.

Before, we felt isolated, lacked community interaction and didn’t have hope for a career. But now we’re thriving! We’re learning new skills, performing, travelling and winning awards.

We have all completed DanceSyndrome’s Dance By Example Leadership Training and are qualified to co-lead inclusive dance workshops with a Dance Artist.

We are all visible members of our communities and can regularly be seen leading workshops, dance performances and community dance activities.

Most importantly we include everyone, regardless of ability, and encourage everyone to follow their dreams.

What do you believe in most?

We believe that people with learning disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else.

We are determined to challenge the way society sees us and our futures. We want to change what people think about disability and encourage other people with disabilities to live a life of their own choosing.

We work together as a team, and do everything we can make sure everyone is included and supported to take part in a way that is meaningful for them.

We want to empower people with learning disabilities to aspire, achieve and progress in a way that people without learning disabilities often take for granted.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

We performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 and 2018! But we also had to raise the money to go, and we raised £10,000.

It was a lot of hard work but it was amazing. The Dance Leaders who performed in the show also helped to choreograph the performance pieces and even went out on the streets of Edinburgh to promote the show.

We hear you’ve been recognised by some important people?

Yes we have, and it’s an honour to know that our work is seen by people so influential. We hope this means people across the country are inspired by us.

In 2018 Jen, the Founder of DanceSyndrome, received of the Prime Minister’s Point Of Light Award and she was also included in The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 List in both 2018 and 2019.

In summer 2019, we were announced as recipients of the prestigious Queens Award for Voluntary Services, the voluntary group equivalent of an MBE.

As well as these national awards, we have received local and sector awards too:

  • Becky Rich received the Lesley Finley Community Award in Lancashire.
  • David Corr and Jess Reid were chosen as the only performers out of 16 to represent the North West at the national U.Dance festival.
  • The Dance Leader team were chosen as winners of the People’s Award at the national Learning Disability and autism Awards 2019.

It’s great to receive these awards and know our work is being seen.


Team members

Jen Blackwell | Becky Rich | Lucy Burgess | Jodie Turner | David Corr | Jamie Montwill | Peter Pamphlett | Jonathan Rodman | Pauline Hall | Lucie White | Mark O’Farrell | Eliza Boothby | Diane Berry | Jess Reid

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How does it feel to be a Learning Disability and Autism Leader?

“We’re thrilled to be included on the Leaders’ List! Thank you to the judges for seeing that we work so well as a team, that we make sure that everyone is included and that everyone has their voice heard. We’re proud to show that people with learning disabilities are valuable citizens who can not only achieve their ambitions but also make the world a better place!”


“This was a fantastic application and so much detail made it easy to judge. As a group they have really shown the value of meaningful inclusion and they are setting the trail alight behind them.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge


In the press

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