Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Dance dance revolution

A dance school started by a former homeless teen is launching an entertainment service for the elderly

Hero for Dance dance revolution
CEO and former homeless teen Charlie Blair
By Victoria Munro 11 January 2022

A hip hop dance school created by a former homeless teenager is launching an online entertainment service for care homes and hospitals.A hip hop dance school created by a former homeless teenager is launching an online entertainment service for care homes and hospitals.

The Blair Academy, based in Blackhorse Lane, was created by Charlie Blair, a former dancer and carer who previously lived in the Walthamstow YMCA.The Blair Academy, based in Blackhorse Lane, was created by Charlie Blair, a former dancer and carer who previously lived in the Walthamstow YMCA.

Having suffered isolation while homeless and frustrated by the impersonal nature of professional care, she created the academy to offer dance classes for vulnerable groups.Having suffered isolation while homeless and frustrated by the impersonal nature of professional care, she created the academy to offer dance classes for vulnerable groups.

After seeing the elderly “left behind” during Covid, the social enterprise is launching a digital entertainment service, the BA Box, with the help of more than £8,000 in funding from UnLtd.After seeing the elderly “left behind” during Covid, the social enterprise is launching a digital entertainment service, the BA Box, with the help of more than £8,000 in funding from UnLtd.

Charlie with Edward, a resident at Esther Randall Court Care HomeCharlie with Edward, a resident at Esther Randall Court Care Home

Speaking to the Echo, Charlie said: “We’re really innovating entertainment for older adults. There’s lots of stuff out there that makes dated assumptions about how they want to spend their time.Speaking to the Echo, Charlie said: “We’re really innovating entertainment for older adults. There’s lots of stuff out there that makes dated assumptions about how they want to spend their time.

“Care homes are not just made up of older white people, their residents come from lots of different backgrounds and cultures, who want to watch someone like them.“Care homes are not just made up of older white people, their residents come from lots of different backgrounds and cultures, who want to watch someone like them.

“In addition to dance workshops, it will offer performances from singers and musicians and a variety of other different things. A lot of them can’t go out anymore so we want to bring high-quality entertainment to them.”“In addition to dance workshops, it will offer performances from singers and musicians and a variety of other different things. A lot of them can’t go out anymore so we want to bring high-quality entertainment to them.”

The Blair Academy has grown from just Charlie to a team of ten in only a few years and is, she says, “the culmination of all the things” she has gone through.The Blair Academy has grown from just Charlie to a team of ten in only a few years and is, she says, “the culmination of all the things” she has gone through.

She said: “As a carer, it always frustrated me that I couldn’t spend quality time with people because I had experienced myself what being isolated does to you when I lived in the YMCA.She said: “As a carer, it always frustrated me that I couldn’t spend quality time with people because I had experienced myself what being isolated does to you when I lived in the YMCA.

“Even though I was only 19 and they were in their 90s, loneliness does not discriminate and can affect anyone. I think lockdown showed people that.“Even though I was only 19 and they were in their 90s, loneliness does not discriminate and can affect anyone. I think lockdown showed people that.

“It’s definitely the driving force behind my business and I’m really proud that I’ve been able to turn experiences in my life that were painful into something that helps other people.”“It’s definitely the driving force behind my business and I’m really proud that I’ve been able to turn experiences in my life that were painful into something that helps other people.”

Find out more about the Blair Academy on their website here.Find out more about the Blair Academy on their website here.