Campaign launched to help young Wigan singer

Alan Gregory and young singer Emily
Alan Gregory and young singer Emily
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A second talented young Wiganer is being assisted by generous residents to achieve her artistic dreams through a crowd-funding campaign.


Educating Emily has been set up to find the £3,000 19-year-old singer Emily Priestley needs to fund her studies at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in Manchester.

The funding drive has been set up by Alan Gregory, the Wigan creator of homegrown musical Beyond Wigan Pier which included Emily in the cast for its premiere concert performance.

It is the second time Alan has launched public appeals to support those who have taken part in the show, with a similar fund raising £4,000 to get dancer Lucy Eccles to the prestigious Lipa conservatoire in Liverpool for a foundation course.

Alan is keen to help Emily achieve her vocal dreams as he says her battles remind him of his own struggles to break into the cultural world from a working-class background.

Emily said: “I’m just really excited everyone wants to help us out with the fund-raising. As a family we know we’re not by ourselves. It was so good when Alan said he would help out with the crowd-funding.

“That’s what the show was about; showcasing Wigan talent. Hopefully this will prove you can have a career in the arts if you’ve got a working-class background.

“I’ve been singing forever and my dream is to record my own music and make records. I’m doing the professional musicianship and vocal
degree at BIMM but the tuition fee loan doesn’t cover the cost of the whole thing, so we have to find some ourselves.

“The cost of it did make me think whether I should audition after going to the open day and there was always the thought about whether we could raise the money or not.”

Emily is looking to reach the next level in her studies, having done a foundation course in musical theatre at Manchester College.

She is already pulling out all the stops to achieve her dream of going to BIMM, with her family having organised a fund-raising night at Trinity URC and the former student at The Deanery High School and St John Rigby College working in the town centre salon where her mum Donna is a stylist and waitressing at the Fat Olive restaurant in Swinley to earn money.

Her fellow cast members from Beyond Wigan Pier have also helped to get the ball rolling, donating £100 that they received from performing at Wigan Pride.

Emily is particularly excited about studying at BIMM because its degrees combine traditional music theory and history learning with intensive sessions in recording studios and opportunities to perform live at festivals and at its sister facility in Berlin.

"That will all come in useful when she attempts to realise her ultimate dream of making it big with her self-written songs, which are a mixture of pop and modern country music."

Alan, who is from Ince and has made a career as a ballet pianist and music teacher, says it was unthinkable that financial considerations should scupper Emily’s ambitions.

He said: “It was always the intention of the show to highlight the talent in Wigan and do something to help young people get the education they need to further their careers.

“There is no way Lucy would have been able to go to Lipa without the help of the people of Wigan and now we’re assisting Emily, who has to find this extra £3,000 on top of what she receives in loans, otherwise she can’t carry on studying.

“Her family are doing the best they can and now the people of Wigan are getting behind her.

“Lucy and Emily are both working-class girls and we want other people to see that, with a bit of help, Wiganers can take their artistic skills further as a career.”

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