Wheelchair Dance with Stonyhurst College

Each week Students from Stonyhurst College join us at Newfield to enjoy wheelchair dancing on a Thursday afternoon - they recently wrote an article on their website celebrating this collaboration.

Michael Turner (History Department) wrote about how the sessions with Stonyhurst Voluntary Service programme began over 25 years ago at Dame Evelyn Fox school in Blackburn, which was eventually closed and replaced by Newfield. It took place on Wednesday afternoons and was led by Heather Davies and himself.

Initially, it consisted of a kind of line dancing where College pupils would push their partners around in wheelchairs to Country and Western music, which evolved into more theme-based sounds and some pretty complicated moves, where there would be dances to music from different countries or songs about food or travel. Over time, the pupils would develop strong relationships with their partners, having the same one each week, and it was a pleasure to see the level of communication that was possible through sharing the experience of dancing and the beaming smiles on both sides. Furthermore, for many years, several of the children from Newfield would come and stay at the annual Children’s Holiday Week which was run at St Mary’s Hall. Since the Arrupe programme began, Wheelchair Dancing has now moved to Thursday afternoons and more of our pupils than ever have been able to attend. What is most notable to me about the nature of ‘service’ of this kind is that pupils often begin with the attitude of thinking about what they can do for the children at Newfield, but they invariably come away with a great appreciation of what the Newfield children have done for them.

Michael Turner, Stonhurst College

All of the pupils and staff at Newfield enjoy the sessions and some lovely relationships have developed through the years.

I didn’t know what to expect, however, the sense of purpose and joy you get out of it by seeing how you have given the children something that day - whether that is a single smile or a sense of involvement - is amazing

Student - Sophie

I got along with my partner really well. I saw how something that was so easy for me could bring so much happiness. It gave me a feeling of purpose

Student

Wheelchair dancing has given me the greatest joy. Whatever life is throwing at you, for that hour at Newfield, all is right with the world and my heart is happy. The joy and pleasure of the children may not always be obvious, but getting that smile or squeal of excitement is absolutely wonderful. The staff at Newfield are exceptional and relentless in their drive to give the children in their care the very best learning and experiences and I have felt privileged to play a small part in that. We get so much more than we give, and for this I will always be grateful. I have lifelong memories that will stay with me and remind me when times may be difficult that the simplest of pleasures really can be found in music, dancing and a 20-foot parachute! The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ will forever remind me of my inability to do-si-do, but it never really mattered, as getting it wrong was all part of the fun.

Mrs Rebecca Davies (RS department)
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