A Middlesbrough man who has a learning disability achieved his lifetime dream of becoming a successful DJ, when he made his live debut to packed crowd at St James’ Park – the home of Newcastle United.
Gavin Walton, 45, took to the stage at the Dacia Magic Weekend, the flagship summer event for the Betfred Super League – rugby league’s topflight competition. Playing a set at the fanzone, he achieved his goals in the most spectacular way.
Gavin is supported by the national social care charity Community Integrated Care. The charity is leading the world’s first ever dedicated volunteering and personal development programme for people who have care and support needs at a major event, in partnership with the Rugby League World Cup 2021. Through this programme, participants like Gavin are given specialist mentoring and development opportunities, designed to fulfil their potential, promote independence, and make dreams come true.
In his application for Community Integrated Care’s Inclusive Volunteering Programme with the Rugby League World Cup 2021, he expressed a passion for music and a dream to DJ to a crowd. The charity partnered with Super League to make this a reality on one of the sport’s most famous stages.
Gavin is just one of more than thirty people who enjoyed an aspirational volunteering project at the event, with others enjoying exciting opportunities such as matchday photography, taking on media roles – interviewing legends of the game, assisting with matchday hospitality, and even sharing their culinary skills to provide catering for members of the Sky Sports broadcast team and Super League colleagues.
Super League and Community Integrated Care further showcased the art of inclusion with people supported by the charity helping to illustrate the Dacia Magic Weekend official matchday programme. More than sixty people created illustrations of players, coaches, and crests, which were featured in the matchday magazine and in a special digital publication. Their artworks are also being shared widely across Super League digital channels.
Community Integrated Care’s ground-breaking Inclusive Volunteering Programme was recently bestowed the Care Innovator Award at the Great British Care Awards for its unique impact upon society and its participants.
John Hughes, Director of Partnerships and Communities at Community Integrated Care, said: “Gavin has always dreamt of playing in front of thousands of people, live on stage. This weekend, he lived out his dream, DJ-ing on the main stage at the Dacia Magic Weekend. With over 20 years experience, we had every faith in Gav to perform and he delivered, putting on a fantastic set that got the crowd singing in dancing, lifting everyone’s spirits. We’d like to give a special thanks to our partners Super League, who are committed to changing lives through volunteering placements such as this, as well as our partners at Sport England and the RLWC2021”
Gavin Walton said: “What an amazing moment! I can’t believe I played my set to all the fans. They were absolutely loving it too, and were very supportive. I love being part of the volunteering programme with Community Integrated Care. I will remember this forever.”
Katy Graham, Marketing Manager at Super League, said: “We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Community Integrated Care and the impact that it has on so many lives. It was important for us to help deliver these life-changing opportunities.
“It’s been extraordinary watching this partnership grow and develop. From seeing the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League teams run out at Anfield during the 2019 Dacia Magic Weekend, to seeing some of their participants returning in 2021 as accredited photographers and journalists, it’s a testament to the impact of the charity.”