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Staffordshire student receives inspirational visit from opera star Denise Leigh

Denise and Cody

International opera star and winner of Channel 4’s Operatunity, Denise Leigh, visited a Staffordshire school to deliver a special message for one of its students.

Cody, like Denise, is visually impaired. Jane Johnson, a Father Hudson’s Care Family Support Worker based in the school, recognised that there was an opportunity for Cody and her peer group to receive an inspiring message – that you can achieve your ambitions if you concentrate on your abilities rather than the hurdles or barriers you may face. So Jane arranged for Denise to come to the Cody’s school to give a performance and meet Cody in person.  

In March, Denise and her husband, who is blind, arrived at St John Fisher School in Staffordshire with their dog Crystal. They gave an assembly and performance to Year 8, as well as spending one-to-one time with Cody. They both described some their experiences and difficulties they’ve faced because of their visual impairment. They also shared their achievements, telling the students about the journeys taken to achieve their goals.

Denise rose to fame after winning Channel 4’s Operatunity – a competition to find a new opera star to perform in Rigoletto with the English National Opera at the London Coliseum. Since then she has gone on to perform internationally, including the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and London Paralympics. 

Jane said, “Denise performed two songs with her husband accompanying her on the piano. It was beautiful. The performance was outstanding and the children were transfixed. Denise acknowledges life comes with challenges, but you need to persevere as life is for living – and that is clearly what they both do.”  

After the performance, she met Cody and her mum for a one-to-one chat. They talked openly, with Denise answering questions about everyday things, like cooking and how she took care of her children when she was young.

Jane said, “Cody was especially interested in how Denise had achieved her singing career and asked for tips about singing. Cody thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”

Jane is part of Father Hudson’s Care’s Family Support Service, which provides support workers in schools in Staffordshire, Birmingham and Banbury. Through intensive, tailored mentoring and advocacy, Family Support Workers support children and their families, improving outcomes for children living through adversity. To find out more about the service visit the Family Support page on this website. 

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