A DANCE teacher has won a national award for running a creative challenge to help lift the spirits of people in the Woking area during the pandemic.

Emma Brewer, who runs First Dance Studio at Heather Farm in Horsell, came first in the We See You Community Champion Awards, beating four other regional winners.

Emma’s award was for her eight-week online A-Z creative challenge in which people could choose to do a creative activity based on different letters of the alphabet, such as art for A, baking (B) and cooking (C).

“This is an incredible feeling,” she said. “If anyone had told me that starting the creative challenge in the middle of a pandemic would have led me to this, I’d have just laughed.

“I am so proud of our group and to have achieved this award is testament to the people in our community who always throw themselves into everything with all of their energy, so I want to say a huge thank you to them, too.”

“Since being named the South-East region winner in December, things have been a bit crazy with lots of people getting in touch with messages of congratulations, but this is even more amazing and I’m so proud to have won.

“I started the creative challenge almost a year to the day and didn’t do it with the intention of any sort of acknowledgement or award – it was purely to help the people in our lovely community so it’s brilliant it’s come full circle the way it has.

“Off the back of the creative challenges, we’ve launched lots of monthly and quarterly initiatives as well as a ‘book club’- style group where we meet to debate how a piece of dance has impacted us and made us feel.” 

The A-Z creative challenge received more than 1,600 submissions in eight weeks, which Emma judged with help from her sons, Max, 15, and George, 12. Prizes were given for the best ones, and these were celebrated at a Zoom party. 

The We See You Community Champion award came with £1,000 in prize money, which Emma plans to spend on a dance and visual art project, for which she has been awarded an Arts Council England grant.

“It will be starting with a piece of music which inspires a dance piece which I’ll choreograph using professional and community dancers and a snippet of it will be performed at a showcase in April,” she said.

“Then, two artists will be commissioned to produce a piece of art each and lead workshops for people in the community to produce their artworks.

“We’ll culminate it all in an exhibition and a film in the summer.”

The We See You Community Champion Awards were run by Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, whose CEO, Royston Bayfield, said: “Emma stood out as going absolutely above and beyond what is her usual job to create something that involved everyone affected by the lockdowns.

“We felt her creativity challenge was really selfless and showed she cares about the wellbeing of everyone in her community. She is a real community champion, and she deserves to have her hard work acknowledged. Well done, Emma.”