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By Gavin Havery
The Journal
October 29, 2011

A real-life  Billy Elliot has ballet danced his way to a prestigious award – after being inspired by his mum.

Just like the fictional film and stage character, Matthew Cruddace-Wynne was the butt of classroom jibes after taking up ballet in his home town.

Like Billy, Matthew, now 12, was spotted by an internationally-renowned dance company and had to move far away from home to realise his dream.

And now Matthew, from Chester-le-Street, has revealed how he took up dancing to escape the heartache of his mum Gayle’s battle with breast cancer.

He took up ballet at the age of four to get out of the house when she was being treated. Thankfully Gayle has now recovered, and yesterday she proudly accompanied Matthew to an awards ceremony, alongside husband Adrian and six-year-old daughter Ciara.

The youngster was presented with the County Durham Community Foundation’s Outstanding Achievement Award 2011 at the ceremony at the Riverside cricket ground, Chester-le-Street, as well as £250 towards his training costs. He now attends the ballet boarding school Elmhurst, in Birmingham, on a scholarship and has been chosen by the Birmingham Royal Ballet to play Fritz in the Nutcracker at the Birmingham Hippodrome and the O2 Arena in London.

Mark I’Anson, Chairman of the Community Foundation which gives grants to make a difference to the lives of local people, said: “There are many incredibly talented young people in the North East who miss out on opportunities as a result of their background. We are proud to be able to support them and help them to realise their dreams. This year’s nominations were all based on the theme of realising dreams and we are delighted that Matthew has won the award.

“He is an incredibly talented, dedicated and determined young man and is achieving against the odds despite having had to deal with those who tormented him along the way.”

Matthew said: “When my mother was ill I was encouraged to take up an interest and ballet was something I was drawn to. Now I board at Birmingham where I am one of six boys in my year at ballet school. It is my dream and I intend to chase it. Winning this award is a huge honour.

“Everybody talks about Billy Elliot and the comparisons but I only saw the film last year for the first time.” Gayle, a bank employee who, by another uncanny coincidence grew up in Easington, Co Durham, where Billy Elliot was filmed, explained: “I wouldn’t allow Matthew to watch the film when he was younger because of all the swearing.

“But I am incredibly proud of his determination. Because he boards we only see him at weekends one in every three, but he feels the sacrifice is worthwhile.”

Every year, members of the Community Foundation’s grants team nominate a grant recipient for the award. This year’s runners-up were GB Rower Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell, GB Water Polo Talent Development Squad member Holly Short, 1st Byers Green Scout Group volunteer Dominic Dimucio and Shildon Amateur Boxing Club.

© 2011 Media Limited

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