A north east comedian who cannot speak hopes to help disabled youngsters find their voice through comedy.
Lee Ridley, known to many as The Lost Voice Guy, is one of the region’s biggest comedy exports most recently landing a BBC Radio 4 show called Ability and was named as the BBC New Comedy award winner in 2014.
Geordie Lee, who has Cerebral Palsy and communicates through an electronic device, has just been appointed as patron for north east children’s charity Smile For Life, and hopes to show others that disability should not be an obstacle to success.
The 36-year-old wants to use his role as patron to get more disabled young people involved in comedy and performing and can’t wait to get stuck in.
He said: “I am just really excited to get involved and I am really happy that I was asked to come on board with Smile For Life.
“I like the idea of getting some of the young people the charity support interested in performing – as long as they are not too funny!
“If I had had a disabled role model as a young person growing up, it would have definitely helped me and made me more confident and social.
“I had amazing support from my school and family as I was growing up so I know how that can benefit a person.”
Lee attended Percy Hedley school in Newcastle with Paralympian and good friend Stephen Miller, who has also worked with Smile For Life by hosting sporting events for disabled students.
He recently visited Smile For Life’s Café Beam in Gosforth, which is staffed by young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, to find out more about the work they do across the region.
He added: “I think that the charity provides a great opportunity for disabled young people and I am happy to be a part of it. I think that it is a real honour and I hope that we can achieve a lot together.”
As well as running comedy workshops for Smile For Life, the comedian from Consett hopes to dispel some of the stigma surrounding disability through public speaking.
He added: “I am good at giving motivational speeches so that could be something that I could do with the charity. I get asked to do them quite a lot so I must be doing something right!
“I do think that the stigma surrounding disability has changed a lot thanks to the Paralympics and programmes like The Last Leg on Channel 4. It’s a good programme, they asked me on the first series but didn’t give me enough notice so I couldn’t make it.
“People seem to be getting more used to the issues surrounding disability, but there is still a long way to go.”
Paula Gascoigne, Chief Executive for Smile For Life Children’s Charity, believes that Lee will be a fantastic inspiration to so many disabled children and young people.
She added: “He stands for everything that the charity stands for – overcoming obstacles and not letting things get in your way. Lee has proven that there are no limits to what you can achieve and we are very proud to have him as our new patron.”
The pair met when Lee performed at the charity’s fundraiser Smile For A Night Variety Show at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in 2015 and 2016.
“Lee has become a good friend of the charity, he is hugely popular and the young people we support can relate to him,” said Paula.
Paul Wallwork, one of the youngsters that works in the charity’s Cafe Beam in Gosforth, was there to meet Lee during his visit and was excited to learn just what the comedian has achieved, despite having no voice.
The 22-year-old, who has learning difficulties, said: “It helps when you see someone who is successful with a disability, that is good for others to see. I think he will be great as patron, he’s done really well with his comedy.”
For more information on Smile For Life Children’s Charity and the work they do go to www.smileforlife.org.uk or search @SmileforlifeNE on social media.