Thursday 3 May 2012
A RESPITE centre inspired by a city woman who struggled to find support with bringing up her autistic daughter has been chosen as Worcester Music Festival’s charity for 2012.
New Hope was set up by Jean Wilson in 2010 as a fun and safe environment for children with disabilities and complex healthcare needs and a place to give families a much-needed break.
The non-profit facility in Wells Road, Ronkswood, which is set to receive charity status, has gone from working with three children to 50, but has no government funding and relies on fundraising to survive.
Specifically, New Hope needs £6,000 to cover staffing costs in the summer holidays alone, a sum Worcester Music Festival hopes to raise during its live music event over the August Bank Holiday.
With an unprecedented 20 charities put forward, New Hope was chosen not only for its unwavering commitment to proving an invaluable service, but its belief in music as a vital form of therapy.
On receiving the news, Jean, whose now nine-year-old daughter Emily was just a toddler when she was diagnosed with autism, said happy was an understatement.
“When Nikki from the festival left, we went and bought a chocolate cake to celebrate, it was such excellent news,” she said. “The children think it’s great, the staff are so excited to be part of such a big event, and it, certainly, has made my day. Ultimately, the money will help, but, with families from as far away as Stratford using our facilities, it will also raise awareness of what we do here.”
Jean, 50, was compelled to set up the respite care facility, giving families time, support and care, after moving back from Scotland to the Midlands. “We just expected the same services to be available here too,” she said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and, in fact, the Midlands still has very little in the way of respite care for parents, who often feel tired and desperate for support. It can be very socially isolating when you have a child with a disability.
“I knew this building had been vacant for a long time, so I went to Worcester Community Housing and just said “how about it then?’ Thankfully, they were really supportive.”
While New Hope, which is open on Saturdays and throughout the holidays, has become a lifeline for the community, Jean’s main priority is the children, who range from 6-19 years old and have everything from ADHD and autism to Fragile X syndrome, Down’s syndrome and Rett syndrome.
Activities range from cooking and arts and crafts, to day trips for horse riding and canoeing. One of the most popular, however, is the music therapy sessions with Sean’s Music Therapy, complete with vibrant outfits and extraordinary instruments. “The kids love him and he often stays longer than he’s supposed to, which is why I applied to the festival. Our kids love music so much.”
Jean also has a personal connection with the festival. Her son, Will Hughes, is the bass guitarist in Jasper In The Company Of Others, a Worcester-based, funky folk band recently signed by Sound-Hub Records and set to perform at Worcester Music Festival this summer.
Last year’s festival charity was Maggs Day Centre, with more than £7,000 raised through a raffle and donations to keep the Deansway lifeline for the homeless open an extra day during the winter.
This year’s Worcester Music Festival, from August 24-27, will see around 350 performances from local and national, original bands and artists in pubs, clubs, cafes and historic buildings across the city. Applications to perform are now closed, with more than 800 bands applying for a slot.
For more information and to keep up with plans for this year’s explosion of live, original music, visit www.worcestermusicfestival.co.uk, join our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.
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Notes to editors
Worcester Music Festival
Worcester Music Festival is an annual event started in 2008 to support and encourage live, local and original music in Worcester and is staged in pubs, clubs, cafes, and historic buildings around or near the city centre. Festival events take place at over 30 venues, with a line-up in the region of 300 bands and musicians. Entry to the majority of venues is free of charge, but there are a few exceptions.
The festival is a non-profit making event run by an enthusiastic team of 25+ volunteers, largely local musicians or people associated with the Worcester music scene. Not only does it provide a showcase for local musical talent of all genres, but it provides education and professional development opportunities through a variety of workshops and clinics. Each year the festival supports different local charities selected from a list of nominations. Money for the charities is raised by way of a raffle, donations, collection buckets at venues and merchandising sales.
Release date: 2nd May 2012