Talented Tring man stars in Electric Umbrella's 'Plug In' campaign

Campaign features four inspiring ambassadors who tell how Electric Umbrella helps them

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 1:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 1:56 pm

A talented young man from Tring has landed a leading role in a new campaign being launched by a charity which uses the power of live music to enhance the lives of learning disabled people.

Jonathan Watson, 22, from Tring, is part of a the campaign being launched by Electric Umbrella this week, called ‘Plug In’ which encourages everyone across the country to join their community.

The Hertfordshire based charity Electric Umbrella was set up five years ago by Mel Boda and Tom Billington to provide a platform for learning disabled people to enjoy live music, and in doing so challenge the perceptions towards learning disabled people. The charity organises gigs, operatas, musicals and even festivals.

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Talented Jonathan stars in Electric Umbrella's 'Plug In' campaign
Talented Jonathan stars in Electric Umbrella's 'Plug In' campaign

Members regularly say they feel left behind by society and placed on the sidelines. Sadly, many of them have also experienced discrimination and say they could achieve far more than what’s expected of them, if given the right opportunities.

This campaign features four amazing ambassadors Jonathan, Farrah, Ryan and his mum Jenny and Amy.

Jonathan is a long-term member of Electric Umbrella. He has severe OCD and anxiety and a mild learning disability, but this is not how he should be defined because he also has incredible talent on stage.

Electric Umbrella has helped to empower Jonathan to achieve the most extraordinary things.

Jonathan Watson and Tom Billington

He said: “The first concert I did I was excited but nervous at the same time. When I managed to get myself singing and playing the drums everyone was just like wow!

“I was jumping on stage, I never felt so happy in my life for a long, long time, and just seeing a lot of people happy and knowing I’ve made them feel happy makes me feel really proud of myself.

“Electric Umbrella helped me to get the confidence to sing and they feel like an amazing family.”

During lockdown over 1,500 people joined the Electric Umbrella community, and they have huge ambitions to grow that number with a blend of digital first and face to face sessions planned in the months ahead.

Electric Umbrella has helped to empower Jonathan to achieve the most extraordinary things

Electric Umbrella launched online sessions during the pandemic, bringing fun interactive shows, singalongs, often with inspiring guests, for their hundreds of members, many of whom relied on these social and creative sessions to get them through this difficult time.

Guests have included celebrities Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Toyah Willcox, Andrew Self, Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling and Tony Hadley - the two latter also sang on the charity’s Christmas single The Best Christmas (In Lockdown).

Electric Umbrella Creative Director and co-founder Tom Billington said: “We believe our members can do anything they want and be anyone they want to be and we encourage them every step of the way.

“We’d love to see a world where people are no longer defined by their disability but they are recognised for their incredible talents.

“Our members are so full of energy and embrace life with such enthusiasm. I believe if more people had these qualities the world would be a better place.

“When the pandemic started we found new ways to bring music to our members by starting online sessions and we discovered this is a brilliant way to reach so many more people.

“We’ve created this amazing community online which is why we have launched this campaign Plug In to encourage others to join Electric Umbrella.”

Mel Boda, Electric Umbrella’s chief executive and co-founder, added: “We’re inviting people to plug in, switch on, and get ready for the ride of their life with this campaign. Everything has been co-produced with our ambassadors, of which Jonathan has been an absolute superstar!

“We want everyone to experience the joy and power of music and see how it brings people together from all walks of life.

“Best of all, it’s completely free to join Electric Umbrella, and you don’t need any referral from your local authority.”

Electric Umbrella run regular free music sessions online alongside Big Yellow Choirs, they are constantly working to challenge the perception of mainstream audiences with everything they do.