Volunteer Wigan dancers going to Buckingham Palace garden party

Volunteer dancers going to party at palace
Volunteer dancers going to party at palace

A trio of generous charity stalwarts getting Wiganers dancing will be hot-footing it to Buckingham Palace to attend a garden party.

Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes co-founder Donna Harrison, Dance Syndrome founder Jen Blackwell and volunteer Toni Nell have all received the royal honour in recognition of their grass-roots efforts.

Donna, Jen and Toni will all head to the capital city for the glamorous event on May 29 and cannot wait to rub shoulders with royalty.

Donna said: “It was amazing to be asked to go. Nobody was expecting it all, we’re absolutely thrilled.

“The best reward for us is finishing a workshop and seeing everybody happy and appreciating what we are doing, but it’s nice for people to see what we are doing.

“I love to give everybody the opportunity to try dance who might normally not receive it.”

Toni, from Hindley, said: “I’m so excited about going to the palace. It’s a great honour and good to get recognition for the hard work we have been doing. We’re really looking forward to it.

“I came along to a Dance Syndrome session and it was just infectious. It’s completely supportive and non-judgemental.

“Dance should be for everyone. We all have the right to exercise and it’s great for mental health.”

Donna co-founded Pianos, Pies and Pirouettes with Ince pianist and tutor Alan Gregory to interest more working-class boys in ballet, most notably running sessions with Wigan Warriors’ rugby league academy players.

She is also connected to Dance Syndrome as she is the lead support for charity founder Jen, who has Down’s syndrome and wanted to create somewhere which is fully inclusive for all dancers and concentrates on ability rather than disability.

Since then Dance Syndrome has been to Edinburgh and both the charity and Jen have won awards for all they have achieved.

Toni’s accidental route into volunteering is similar as she did some cleaning work for Jen and got increasingly involved in Dance Syndrome.

She now helps with the classes, including regular sessions at The Rose Club in Hindley, and is also part of the charity’s performance group.

Toni is an active figure in the Hindley community as she also provides support for elderly people to live independently in their own homes.

She said: “If you are able bodied and focused on your own life you don’t see it but there are lots of people who just need a bit of support and help and can then thrive with that.”