A Downs Syndrome dancer has been crowned inspirational woman of the year.
Denby Dale born Jen Blackwell, 33, was left shocked when she was announced public vote winner of the top award at the Enterprise Vision Awards (EVA) at a north west ceremony at Blackpool Winter Gardens along with her mum Sue for their DanceSyndrome company, which helps those with learning disabilities realise their dreams.
Jen, who now lives in Preston, set up her not-for-profit organisation with her mum in 2010, through which she has helped hundreds of people further their dancing skills.
The award, one of 16 given out for different categories by Apprentice finalist Claire Young, was much hoped for by mum Sue, still of Denby Dale, and Jen, who began her mission to become a dance teacher when she was 19.
Commenting on the achievement, Sue said: “It’s an absolutely incredible achievement and she also earned a standing ovation for her speech which people said was the best of the night.
“I’m thrilled for Jen and DanceSyndrome and so appreciative of the support of every single person who have been involved in our journey, of which there have been lots over the years.
“I would like to thank them and everyone who voted for us – I understand that we got votes from far flung countries such as Australia and the USA.”
Jen, who is training to gain a grade four silver standard in ballet, organises workshops throughout the north west for disabled and non-disabled people who choreograph dances together and are encouraged to lead classes.
Some of DanceSyndrome’s most notable achievements have been performing at the Lowry in Salford, Manchester Day parade and on TV with comedian Miranda Hart as part of Comic Relief 2013.
But not just a dance enthusiast, she is vice chair of Xylophone orchestra Xylosound in Slaithwaite and is the lead flautist in Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music’s Special Virtuosi orchestra.
Coral Horn, who launched EVA in 2011, said: “Throughout my years of working with women in business I have found that women have a tendency to overlook their achievements in favour of simply getting on with the job in hand.
“It’s only when they take a step back and reflect, do they realise just how successful they are.
“The awards were launched in a bid to combat this and really start celebrating those women who are making an enormous contribution to our economy and providing employment”.