Generous arts enthusiasts have launched a crowd-funding campaign to help a talented young Wigan dancer step her way to the very top.
The team behind the new Orwell musical Beyond Wigan Pier, led by the show’s creator Alan Gregory, has unveiled Lucy’s Dream in aid of 18-year-old Lucy Eccles.
The Swinley star has secured a place at the prestigious Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts (Lipa) but is struggling to accept the place due to the £9,000 per year tuition fees.
This is beyond the means of her mum Jill Sheridan and because Lipa is a conservatoire rather than a university Lucy is also ineligible for many of the usual student loans and grants.
For Ince pianist and ballet accompanist Alan, who included Lucy in the cast of the new musical’s premiere at The Edge and has worked with her on his Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes project, it is deeply unfair that budget concerns could prevent her pursuing her arts dream.
Alan has dubbed her tale “a real life Billy Elliot” and says Lucy’s story has personal echoes of his own struggles to break into the world of culture as a Wiganer.
He said: “Lucy is a fabulous dancer and Lipa is offering the course most suitable for her talents and ambitions.
“She is good enough to make the grade but another young working class northerner’s dreams are likely to be shattered for lack of money and support. This is exactly what happened to me, only 40 years on, so we are crowd-funding to make Lucy’s dreams come true.
“This is the central point of why I wrote the musical and the crux of what it is all about: working class Wigan youngsters having access to careers in the arts.”
Alan has also made Lucy, who is currently doing her A-levels at Winstanley College, the first recipient of the new Winifred Gregory Trust Fund to help her dancing.
Lucy says she chose dance as her career six years ago and Lipa was the place she had her heart set on as soon as she set foot there for audition.
She dances at Tina’s Studio in Springfield and says her favourite styles are ballet, contemporary and tap.
Lucy said: “The crowd-funding is fantastic and I’m so grateful to Alan for setting it up. Going to Lipa would mean so much, it’s everything I’ve wanted to do for years.
“Auditioning at Lipa was a big step and really exciting but the costs were daunting. It’s really frustrating but I suppose a lot of people have been in the same situation of wanting to go into the performing arts and not being able to afford it.
“Being in Beyond Wigan Pier was also fantastic. I’d never been in a musical before and it was great that it was all in Wigan and about Wigan.”
Mum Jill says she is delighted Alan has thrown the full support of Beyond Wigan Pier behind Lucy’s dream, describing her deep sadness at not being able to fund the Lipa place herself.
She said: “It was just heart-breaking knowing we couldn’t afford Lipa’s fees.
“She’s got in at several other universities too but obviously Lipa is a great chance for her to get a career afterwards.
“She just loves dance. Every performance she does she gets a distinction. We’re going to try this crowd-funding for her, it’s all we can do.”
The campaign lasts until July 9. To find out more or donate, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/lucys-dream