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Phil Barnett interviewed by Anna Kennedy at Women’s Radio

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Anna Kennedy OBE’s guest for this week on ‘All things Autism’ is Phil Barnett – Anna’s guest on Women’s Radio which will be aired at 1pm and 1am each day this week on  www.womensradiostation.com.

About Phil

Phil Barnett first trod the boards in pantomime aged 10 in South Yorkshire. After leaving school he trained as a hairstylist in large salons in Doncaster and Barnsley.

38 years ago he moved to St Ives in Cornwall with his partner Ian and a year later opened up the first of his five hairdressing salons. After rekindling his love of theatre Phil founded Kidz R Us, a youth theatre group and registered charity which he has headed for the last 26 years.

Highlights have been many such as directing and producing three world premiere, particularly being asked to direct the world premier of the first show ever written by Sir Tim Rice & Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Likes Of Us! Another highlight was directing Titanic The Musical at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall on the night of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic!

Being asked to perform a principal role alongside West End and Broadway stars in The Proms West Side Story production at the Royal Albert Hall a few years ago is something he will never forget!

Phil was honoured to receive The Queens Award For Voluntary Services and The British Empire Medal for services to youth.

Being chosen to take part in The People’s Strictly For Comic Relief out of 11,000 nominated people was one of the highlights of his life and also where Phil met Anna!

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The interview

Five years ago when I met Anna I had heard very little about Autism and I knew very little about how widespread it was and how differently it affected different people! I was hungry to learn more and the more I heard, the more I wanted to know!

I soon realised that a lot of our former members were on a spectrum but I hadn’t recognised what they needed and how we as an organisation could have helped them and I resolved to do better in the future and have since made sure that we are more autism aware!

One young man, Alfie, came to us along with his mums and we worked together with Alfie to try to make his time with us more enjoyable whilst also helping him to be able to adapt to lots of things that he wasn’t very comfortable with doing!

Alfie was amazing and although it was a tough mountain for him to climb he was fully committed to being in one of our productions and taking lead roles – something that needed a lot of bravery and tenacity!

Whilst it wasn’t always easy,  Alfie tried very hard as theatre means a lot to him and as his confidence grew, so did his skill set and as well as being on stage, Alfie also ran the sound desk for one of our shows which requires a lot of patience, confidence and commitment!

I am thrilled to say that Alfie grew so much in all sorts of ways and I couldn’t be prouder of him! I’m still learning lots about autism and since hosting and compering a few AGT shows I have got to know some wonderful families!

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I so admire those parents and carers who work tirelessly to help their family members achieve more than they ever dreamed would be possible and my heart sings to see their see their confidence and their skills improve!

I cannot thank Anna and the AKO team enough – they are so kind, supportive and also hilarious! I look forward to many more years supporting them in this way if they will have me and can’t wait for future events!

You can listen to this interview on on Women’s Radio at 1pm and 1am each day this week on  www.womensradiostation.com.


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