“Every once in a while a special person emerges. Charlotte Aspley is Lichfield’s special person.”

As the booming voice of Lichfield’s Town Crier (AKA Ken Knowles) rang out, the crowd gathered to celebrate the first birthday of Shining Stars smile in admiration in the direction of Charlotte.

Charlotte lives with Mosaic Down Syndrome and is the driving force behind the initiative that gives people living with a learning disability the chance to enjoy a night out on the town in a safe and secure environment.

Charlotte recognised that there was nowhere for people with a learning disability to go and enjoy a night out with friends so she approached Walkabout in Lichfield and set about raising the funds to make it happen. As well as donations from Tesco and local councillors, Charlotte applied for a £300 grant from YouCan to help get the initiative off the ground.

The first Shining Stars @Walkabouts  disco took place in August 2017 with around 20 people enjoying a great time. A year later and that number has swelled to around 90… and I was extremely privileged to be invited to their first birthday party.

The party was packed with people enjoying the music and everyone I spoke to was full of praise and admiration for Charlotte. As well as the fabulous Town Crier, we were treated to the presence of the Mayor of Lichfield, Councillor David Leytham and Mayoress, Jan Leytham-Gain, Miss Lichfield, Daz Hale of BBC WM and Rachel White of Signal One.

As I chatted to people about Charlotte throughout the evening a word that kept coming up was ‘amazing.’ Laura Bruce and Hannah Norris of Mencap work closely with her and couldn’t sing her praises enough.

An ambassador for Mencap, Charlotte has completed the last two London Marathons, and a couple of days after the party she jetted of to take part in the Berlin Marathon to help raise funds for the charity. She completed the course by knocking 10 minutes off her previous personal best with a time of 6 hours 28 minutes.

And this is just the beginning – Shining Stars is expanding.

With another £300 YouCan grant in the bag to pay towards security, Shining Stars will be making its debut at Couture nightclub in Stafford on Thursday 7 February with Charlotte expecting a bumper crowd.

“Our evenings offer people living with a disability a unique opportunity to enjoy a night in a nightclub with friends. We’ll be running this event every four weeks and really hope that the people of Stafford come and join us. The nightclub have very generously offered the venue free of charge and are also paying half of the security costs – we’re also so grateful that the DJ has offered their services free of charge too!”

To keep up-to-date with everything that’s going on, head over to Facebook and like their page. They’ve recently launched a new website too, so don’t forget to keep checking back to see the latest news.

 

In case you wondering what else the Town Crier said, here’s his proclamation in full…

Oyez, oyez, oyez
Welcome to Walkabout
Today we gather to celebrate a special anniversary
One year ago Shining Stars held their inaugural bash
Right here, right now
So tonight, welcome to the first Birthday Bash
Every once in a while a special person emerges
Charlotte Aspley is Lichfield’s special person
She won’t admit it herself, but she is an inspiration to us all
She enjoys life to the full
Thinks of others
Raises money for chosen charities and works for a living
Mecap must be well pleased with her dedication
Charlotte, congratulations for all your achievements
Best of luck in Berlin
Shining Stars thank you for your work tonight    And hope your endeavours continue for many more years
God bless you, God save the queen.