Autism put in the spotlight by Strictly star

STRICTLY star Anna Kennedy will bring glamour, passion and maybe even a hint of fake tan when she returns to her hometown to host Autism’s Got Talent in Teesside for the first time.

She wowed audiences with her Charleston on The People’s Strictly for Comic Relief and, together with Tees Valley charity, Daisy Chain, she will put on the unique show she founded to highlight the talents of youngsters in the region with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

It is being held at Teesside University which awarded Anna an honorary degree in 2013 in recognition of her achievements and campaigning.

Now living in London, she set up a school for autistic pupils in Hillingdon, after discovering her sons Patrick had Asperger’s Syndrome and Angelo had autism.

Anna and her husband Sean had to remortgage the family home to fund the project.
Since then, the 55-year-old has gone on to write a book about autism, set up a website supporting other parents, opened a second specialist school and vocational college for young adults with autism as well as being named Tesco Mum of the Year.
She also masterminded the UK’s largest autism diagnosis survey which revealed that more than half of respondents claimed that they had to wait more than five years.

Amongst the youngsters waiting to shine in the spotlight in the Brittan Building on Friday, September 25, will be 14-year-old twins Madison and Ashton McAlpine singing Defying Gravity from hit West End musical Wicked, with Ashton performing as Elphaba and Madison as Glinda, the show’s central characters.

Mum Patricia McAlpine, of Eaglescliffe, Stockton, said: “Events such as this are really important in helping to change any misconceptions which people might have about autism and what it means to be affected by it.

“The girls have high-functioning ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and are both doing really well at school. Their music and drama teacher at school encouraged them to sing the song from Wicked. They performed it at the school play and it was a massive success.

“Since then they’ve become obsessed with the show, so I took them to London to see Wicked as a surprise birthday present. They loved it and are now really excited to perform at the Autism’s Got Talent showcase.”

BEWITCHING: Autism’s Got Talent performers 14-year-old twins Ashton (left) and Madison McAlpine (right) Ashton is the green witch/ Madison the golden dress princess

BEWITCHING: Autism’s Got Talent performers 14-year-old twins Ashton (left) and Madison McAlpine (right)

Ashton, has previously performed at Anna’s showcase, taking part two years ago when it was held in London. She said: “It’s my favourite song and it’s great being able to sing with my sister.”

Patricia added: “Ashton wants to be a performer and Madison hopes to become a teacher when they’re older.”
A former tap dance teacher, Anna has performed several times on stage with her Strictly professional partner, Robin Windsor, since learning the past-paced Flapper routine she performed in front of millions in the first People’s Strictly for Comic Relief which celebrated unsung heroes.
Performances at Autism’s Got Talent will include singing and dancing, people playing musical instruments, performing magic tricks or even presenting a talk on something they have achieved.
Anna, who is patron of the Daisy Chain charity which supports children on the spectrum and their families, said the event is a celebration of ability while also celebrating her links with the charity and Teesside. Five slots during the event will include performers from Daisy Chain.
She said: “My team and I are so excited to be bringing Autism’s Got Talent to Middlesbrough and to involve the Daisy Chain charity. The audience is going to be wowed by all the performers and it will give these talented individuals the opportunity to show off their talent.”
Performers taking part include:

Luke Dolphin
Scott James
Ashton and Maddison Mc Alpine
Alice Jordan
Bradley Turner
Martin Finn
Callum Abbiss
Bekah Cook
Carly Ryan
Beverley Choir
Connor Richardson
Lauren Braxton
Nicholas Meek
Darryl Johnson

Judith Haysmore, Daisy Chain Chief Executive, added: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for young people with autism to demonstrate just how talented they are and we are delighted to work with Anna to bring it North for the first time.”

Autism’s Got Talent will take place at Teesside University’s Brittan Hall on Friday, September 25, from 7pm to 9.30pm.

Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, available from the Daisy Chain Superstore on Portrack Lane, Stockton and Daisy Chain day centre, Calf Fallow Farm, Norton. More information on 01642 -531248 or by emailing

Twitter: AnnaKennedy1