A small North East charity has started the year with a huge reason to smile thanks to a world-famous actress.

Newcastle’s The Josephine and Jack Project, which last year was named Community Organisation of the Year in the disability category of the National Diversity Awards, has a new patron in the form of national treasure Sally Phillips.

The news comes after Smack The Pony and Bridget Jones’ Diary star Sally learned of the multi award-winning charity, which supports adults and young people with learning disabilities to lead full and rich lives, while presenting at the glittering National Diversity Awards ceremony at Liverpool Cathedral in September. It also rounds off a great few months for the project, which was also highly commended in the North East Charity Awards 2019 as one of the region’s small charities of the year.

Simon James, Chief Executive of The Josephine and Jack Project explained: “We met Sally at the awards ceremony in Liverpool and as she has a son with Down’s Syndrome, she was really interested in what we do.

“We felt she really understands our vision, and we’re thrilled to have Sally’s support to raise awareness of our work nationally. It will help us have a real impact on the lives of even more vulnerable people, so we’re over the moon to be able to work with her as we grow.”

Josephine and Jack are a unique resource in the North East, helping men and women to safely explore matters of sexual health and overall wellbeing, and empowering them to understand their rights and responsibilities in life and in love.

Each bespoke Josephine and Jack figure has features, such as a detachable breast or testicle with a detectable lump, to be used in a range of workshops exploring general health, sexual health, mental health and wellbeing.

The project, which is based at Good Space, began life as part of Them Wifies community arts organisation before becoming a charity in 2016. It now works with groups such as Guidepost in Gateshead, Journey in Wallsend, with local schools and with a range of clients across the North East.

There are also Josephines and Jacks in Scotland, Northumberland, London and on the Isle of Wight working under license to the project, with the charity planning to expand this side of the operation.

Sally said: “You don’t forget two life size cloth figures joining you on stage at an awards ceremony, so it’s fair to say I was intrigued to say the least! And the more I learned about Josephine and Jack and related it to my son’s experiences and my hopes and dreams for him, I became all the more sure that the work of The Josephine and Jack Project was something I wanted to support.

“I’m looking forward to working with the team to help expand its amazing impact.”

To find out more about The Josephine and Jack Project, visit josephineandjackproject.co.uk.