BDA Young Ambassadors
In December 2013, Olivia learnt about Nelson Mandela’s life in a school assembly. She learned that one person really can make a positive and lasting change; so she decided to write to the Rt Hon Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Education. After all, if Nelson Mandela could do it, why not her? Olivia wrote a 2 page handwritten letter to Michael Gove telling him of her experiences of being bullied, getting alopecia, and her feeling that dyslexics “get no help at state school” and can be bullied because of it, leading to feelings that they lack potential. Mr Gove replied agreeing that bullying was not acceptable and teachers must be qualified.
She was made a Young Ambassador in March 2014 and has appeared numerous times in the media. Recognition of Olivia’s actions is not confined to the media; she is also being followed and supported by celebrities such as Kara Tointon, Anthea Turner, Anna Walker and Kenny Logan via twitter.
To read more on Olivia's story, please click here.
Jo was made a Young Ambassador in September 2014 due to her work raising awareness of Dyslexia. More information on Jo will be coming shortly.
Luke Parsons is a student who has recently finished his secondary education with a selection of Bs and Cs and two A’s (one in English) at GCSE. He is now attending Eastleigh College studying Uniformed Public Services and working towards a level 3 qualification.
His discovery of his dyslexia spurred him towards proving himself to others resulting in him being elected as head boy of his school by his peers and teachers.
A turning point in his secondary education came in the beginning of year 9 once he had started his GCSE courses. This was significant because for the first time Luke felt he was able to relax and start enjoying his education. On this turning point, Luke said, “I had chosen subjects I enjoyed and played to my strengths including drama and art. I shared my lessons with pupils with a similar work ethic to me. We all wanted to succeed and do well. I was boosted by the knowledge that in a 3 month period of year 10 I made 3 years of progress in reading.”
Luke believes that with the right attitude and the correct support, he has learned to embrace his dyslexia and face the future proud of his achievements and proud to be a ‘different learner’.
Irish Soprano Anna Devin is widely acknowledged as one of today’s brightest talents for her vocal versatility and strong stage presence. She has established an international career since graduating from the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artist programme in 2012. Highlights of the 2015/6 season include Handel’s Saul with Glyndebourne Touring Opera; her Welsh National Opera company debut as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro; concerts at Mozartwoche in Salzburg and Lausanne Bach Festival and her debut at Teatro alla Scala.
However, as a child, Anna had difficulties acquiring literacy and was eventually found to be dyslexic. Supported very heavily by her mother to strive for success, Anna has clearly achieved this. We asked her what her view was of being dyslexic and what she would say to other young people on finding they are dyslexic. “Being different is not a bad thing. Not fitting in with the crowd is a blessing as we all have our own journey and being forced to find your own path brings originality. It’s not going to be easy and don’t expect to be spoon-fed. You must take control of yourself and your own learning and find the skills and ways that work best for your unique brain.”
Mackenzie Thorpe is an artist whose unique and distinctive work is exhibited and collected in galleries across the world, from Japan to Australia; the U.S.A. to New Zealand, as well as Europe and the UK. He is credited with changing the face of commercial art publishing in the U.K., breaking away from traditional imagery and depictions to produce a new, challenging and varied portfolio of art works. Currently Mackenzie is based in Brighton, with new and exciting works released and exhibited on an international scale.
Through his work he has managed to reach out and connect with people from all walks of life irrespective of age, gender, social class, or nationality and his art hangs in individual and corporate collections. He has established a presence with collectors from the world of sport, music, film, politics and royalty.
Mackenzie came on-board as a BDA Ambassador for his contributions to the arts and Dyslexia in 2014. As someone who struggled through a difficult childhood due to unidentified dyslexia, Mackenzie’s work in raising awareness and dispelling the myths surrounding it, make him a fantastic role model for other artists with dyslexia. Mackenzie acted as judge in the art category of the BDA’s Dyslexia Awareness Week competition in 2014 and presented the awards at the Gala Award Evening that November. He is pictured above with one of the award winners, Christian Davis.
To find out more about Mackenzie, please visit his website.
Sarah Chapman is a first class education studies graduate who specilaises in Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). She is a lso a multi-award winning campaigner, motivational speaker and inclusion consultant with a deep rooted interest in the fields of dyslexia ans other Specific Learning Difficululties (SpLDs).
She is fierecely passionate about promotiing inclusion, equality and the benefits of neuro-diversity in schools, Further Education, Higher Education and the employment sector. She prides herslef on inspiring and empowering children and adults whose brain are wired differently, have physical difficulties or impairments and challenges within mental health. Having had a horrendnous experience in education herself as a result of unidentified dyslexia and Irlen Syndrome, like many before and after her she left with no useful qualifications. This changed significatly however at age 26 when she turned her life around when expecting her first child. Since then she has gained a raft of qualifications and now she uses her knowledge and experience to train and advise learners, parents, educators and employers.
Through her works she has won 5 prestigious awards including, The East Midlands Adult Learner's Week award (2012), The University of Derby's Volunteer of the Year Award (2014), & Equality and Diversity Award (2014). In September 2014 she was extremely proud to have been endorsed by 372 people to win the 'Positive role model for disability' category at the UK's largest National Diversity Awards after being shortlisetd from 21,000 nominations. Most recently she was announced as the winner of Derby and Derbyshire's Inspirational Woman of the Year award (2015) in the Community, Voluntary and Charity sector for her relentless dedication to her studies and the work she has done to improve the learning and life experiences of hundreds of dyslexic children and adults throughout the UK
For more information about Sarah's work: www.operationdiversity.co.uk
Jonty Hearnden is one of the most recognisable faces on TV when it comes to antiques and collectables. His TV career began in 1997 when he became one of the experts on the Antiques Road Show. Since then he is best known for his many appearances on BBC1’s Cash in the Attic, Celebrity Cash in the Attic and the highly successful Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
Jonty began to struggle from a very early age at dyslexia and was diagnosed when he was 12, however he found 40 years ago not many people understood about the disability. Jonty was made a BDA Ambassador for his services towards raising awareness at the 2014 Annual BDA Dyslexia Awards where he hosted the live auction.
He added, "I still think there is a stigma attached to being dyslexic so I would like to help dispel this if I can and promote the positive aspects of it. If the general public can see people like me openly talking about it in positive terms then those that do not have the confidence to speak out might feel more inclined to do so."
Pamela Uddin, a candidate on Series 10 of the BBC 1 programme “The Apprentice”, launched her own business 2015 which aims to support the needs of people with dyslexia and other learning disabilities within the corporate environment. Pamela went through school as an undiagnosed dyslexic and dyspraxia, and battled confidence issues caused by her stammer. It wasn’t until her university years that she fully understood her condition and it was then that her potential blossomed. After working for two Global companies, Pamela then decided to set up Alexia Agency, so she could help ensure that the next generation of young entrepreneurs don’t have to endure the bullying, anguish and feelings of isolation that she went through.
Day to day, her dyslexia is always at the surface of everything she does. She often recounts (when public speaking) about the first time she visually drew up her business plan on the wall of her South London flat and ironically mis-spelt the word ‘strengths’ and ‘success’ in the centre of her plan. Having worked for a number of market leading businesses already and experienced life in Lord Sugar’s Boardroom, Pamela’s career may still be in its early stages, but she isn’t lacking in experience or self-belief.
She encourages those who also suffer from dyslexia to fully embrace it, and is now on a quest to make fellow dyslexics aware of the brilliant, unique gifts that they can bring to society and the business world. Check out Pamela’s Tweets regarding Dyslexia and Business @Alexia_Agency
Paul struggled through his early education and was bullied for being dyslexic and epileptic. Since finding art to be an outlet, Paul has gone on to achieve numerous fantastic artistic achievements. He has sold knitted fashion textile designs to the fashion house Versace at the Indigo Fashion show in Paris and was commissioned to do a mural for Sainsbury’s Haywards Heath consisting of 38 people’s portraits, which is archived and recorded with the Sainsbury’s Archive at the Museum of London along with four other portraits. His portrait of Prime Minister David Cameron, which hangs in 10 Downing Street is also archived and recorded with The National Portrait Gallery in London in the Heinz Archive.
He is the founder and organiser of the Balcombe Art Trail and also designed the logo for the British Dyslexia Association International Conference 2016 which can be seen on the conference Twitter and Facebook feeds as well as website. Paul now gives regular talks about dyslexia and his art, as well as being heavily involved in the local community.
For more information on Paul, you can visit