Strictly fan melts hearts with her dancing at special Christmas service
A talented young dancer has melted hearts with her remarkable performance at a special Christmas concert.
Efa Williams, 14, a pupil at Ysgol y Gogarth in Llandudno, took centre stage with her starring role at the service held at Bangor Cathedral.
The teenager also made a bit of history as it was the first ever fully inclusive and accessible service at the cathedral.
The Christmas Celebration was led by Naomi Wood, the cathedral’s Family Minister, and was attended by more than 180 people.
It was organised by mum-of-three Davina Carey-Evans, the current High Sheriff of Gwynedd, whose 27 year old son, Benjamin has severe autism.
She has set up a Community Interest Company called PIWS (Welsh for purple) to help businesses and other venues improve access – especially for those with hidden disabilities.
In recent months PIWS has unveiled a major campaign helping tourist businesses across Wales, after running the pilot project on Anglesey with a Holiday Club providing attraction visits and quiet safe spaces for families at popular events such as Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
According to her mum, Ceinwen Williams, Efa loved her moment in the spotlight, particularly as she’s a big fan of hit TV show Strictly Come Dancing.
The congregation burst into a round of spontaneous and enthusiastic applause after her moving performance.
Ceinwen added: “We went to see the Strictly Show Live and we’ve been a few times to Venue Cymru in Llandudno and to Theatr Clwyd in Mold to see dance shows, such as Diversity, with Oti Mabusi.
“Efa sees dance as an easy way to communicate her feelings – easier than verbally she says. She really enjoys all kinds of dancing, and really enjoyed the dance club at school.”
Also among those taking part was a choir from Conwy Connect, an organisation set up to promote the rights of people with learning disabilities from the counties of Conwy and Denbighshire.
Using Makaton, a language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech, the choir’s diverse repertoire included the Christmas carol, Silent Night, and the classic Elvis Presley number, Can’t Help Falling in Love.
Jane McIlveen, from Penmaenmawr accompanied her son, Sean, 31, who has Down’s Syndrome and loves singing with the Conwy Connect choir.
“It’s been a lovely morning. The service was a wonderful opportunity for us all to get together. We’ve known many of the people here today for many years,” she said.
“In addition to singing with the Conwy Connect choir he takes part in other activities organised by the group.
“He loves making things in the arts and crafts and regularly goes to discos and takes part in karaoke. And he loves singing with the choir. He’s really enjoyed himself here today,” she said.
There were also performances by Ysgol Pendalar in Caernarfon, Canolfan Addysg y Bont in Llangefni and Ysgol y Gogarth as well as residents from a care home
The concert was enjoyed by keen PIWS supporter Kerri-Ann Jones, who manages the organisation’s webpage and social media accounts.
She was at the service with her three children, seven year old Felicity, four year old Aubrey and 14-month-old Verity.
The family, from Holyhead, Anglesey, had never visited the cathedral before and were delighted to have the opportunity to attend the service.
Kerri-Ann said: “Events like this bring us all together and we need more opportunities like this.
“Felicity attends Ysgol y Bont in Llangefni and they are doing some fantastic work with her and she took part in the service itself. Aubrey is four years old and Felicity is 14 months and we have never been able to attend a church service before.
“We’ve been to weddings in the past and have had to take them out of the church because they become fidgety and have had to be taken outside and there is a need for more opportunities like this and for children like Felicity to be part of the wider community.”
Speaking after the service Davina, said the event was “humbling and moving”.
She said: “There were brilliant performances by everybody who took part and Efa’s dancing was just remarkable and melted all our hearts.”
Davina added: “It doesn’t matter what their behaviour is and I hope this becomes an annual event. I get so moved by seeing these kids having such a wonderful time but it’s also the people that support them and how hard they work. You can see that they have wonderful relationships with the kids.
“There needs to be more opportunities like this where people can come out and everybody be included.
The Archbishop of Wales, the Right Rev Andrew John, said: “We are so glad to see PIWS here because Christmas gives us an opportunity to bless people with additional needs, so it is entirely appropriate for us to do something as good as this in the cathedral in Bangor.
“We haven’t done anything with PIWS before and I believe that being here today is an opportunity for us all build something for the future.
“And of course to come here in the Christmas period is completely appropriate because the Christmas story is all about extending a welcome to everyone.”
After concluding the service with a blessing the Archbishop emulated Father Christmas by handing out gifts to the children. Nicola Carlo, from PIWS, said these had been donated to PIWS by local branches of supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons and Dunelm, the home furnishings retailer.
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