A WOKING dance teacher has won a community champion award for running a creative challenge to help lift the spirits of local people during the pandemic. 

Emma Brewer, who runs First Dance Studio at Heather Farm, Horsell, organised an eight-week online 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).

Emma started the A-Z creative challenge in January last year when many of the restrictions were reimposed.  

“I knew I needed to do something to create a sense of community and purpose,” she said.

“More than 70 people joined and we had over 1,600 submissions in eight weeks. I was completely taken aback by the number and quality of entries. It was a pleasure to review and share them with the other participants. The A-Z creative challenge ended up being such a fun and joyous creative experience for us all.”

Emma’s sons – Max, 15, and George, 12 – helped her to judge the submissions and award points based on various criteria. Prizes were given for the best ones and these were celebrated at a Zoom party at the end of March.

The project was nominated for the We See You Community Champion Awards, held by Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, by one of the dancers at Emma’s studio.

The A-Z creative challenge was named the South-East region winner with a prize of £100 and the chance to win £1,000 in the national round of the awards later this year.

Emma charged a small fee to the entrants which helped raise funds for her dance studio, which had suffered during the various lockdowns.

She grew up in Woking and went to the Winston Churchill School. She set up First Dance Studio 17 years ago and moved to Heather Farm in 2016.

“I know through my dance studio just how important community and creativity is for people’s mental health and wellbeing,” Emma said.

“The feedback has been so positive and I’m overwhelmed by the response. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who got involved with the creative challenge – you made it what it is – and for all the supporters of the dance studio.”

Royston Bayfield, CEO of Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, said: “We wanted to acknowledge the community champions and thank them for making a positive difference in their local areas.

“I’d like to congratulate Emma for making such a positive impact on so many people.”