A charity which uses the power of live music to enhance the lives of people who are learning disabled has launched a new campaign to invite everyone across the UK to join its community.
Hertfordshire-based Electric Umbrella was set up five years ago by Mel Boda and Tom Billington to provide a platform for learning disabled people to enjoy live music, and in doing so challenge the perceptions towards learning disabled people.
During the pandemic, the charity launched online sessions bringing fun interactive shows, singalongs, often with inspiring guests, for their hundreds of members, many of whom relied on these social and creative sessions to get them through this difficult time.
Guests have included celebrities Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Toyah Willcox, Andrew Self, Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling and Tony Hadley.
Over 1,500 people joined the Electric Umbrella community during the first lockdown, and the charity now has ambitions to grow that number through its campaign, Plug In.
Electric Umbrella Creative Director and co-founder Tom Billington said: “When the pandemic started we found new ways to bring music to our members by starting online sessions and we discovered this is a brilliant way to reach so many more people.
“We’ve created this amazing community online which is why we have launched this campaign Plug In to encourage others to join Electric Umbrella online sessions.”
The Plug In campaign features four ambassadors – Farrah, Jonathan, Ryan and his mum Jenny, and Amy.
Jonathan Watson, 22, from Tring in Hertfordshire is a long-term member of Electric Umbrella. He has severe OCD and anxiety.
He said: “The first concert I did I was excited but nervous at the same time. When I managed to get myself singing and playing the drums everyone was just like wow!
“I was jumping on stage, I never felt so happy in my life for a long, long time, and just seeing a lot of people happy and knowing I’ve made them feel happy makes me feel really proud of myself. Electric Umbrella helped me to get the confidence to sing and they feel like an amazing family.”
Amy Barrett, 34, from Stone in Staffordshire, has a rare chromosome abnormality Jacobsen Syndrome.
She said: When I was young mum and dad told me that a doctor said I’d never walk or talk and look at me now, they are so proud of me for what I’ve achieved.
“I have found something that I love with Electric Umbrella and my confidence has grown so much. It is a wonderful organisation and makes me feel happy and warm and fuzzy inside.”
Caption: Electric Umbrella operations director Steve Joy with member Ryan.