Viewers of DIY SOS: Strictly Special were left in floods of tears last night after the team transformed a theatre school for children with special needs.
In a special episode, Nick Knowles and his team set to work on transforming a derelict old boys’ club into a creative home for True Colours, a Wallsend-based performing arts school for children and young adults.
With only six days to complete the build, it was a huge challenge. Disused for more than a decade, the old sports hall was dark and dingy, with a graffiti-filled concrete yard outside.
The main performance space underwent a huge glow-up, with an accessible stage, as well as a new reception and cafe area.
Many viewers were touched by the transformation, which saw the team build a performance space as well as a sensory room, with one writing: ‘This project for the true colours charity is beautiful, very important and so meaningful. Bravo to all the people who work so hard to make this happen.’
Another commented: ‘I’ve never watched DIY SOS before and it seems I’ve chosen the motherload of emotional episodes with this Strictly special.
‘It’s joyful and simultaneously gruelling.’
A third wrote: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much while watching DIY SOS before.
‘Such a deserving community charity project.’
Another added: ‘What a wonderful community project! I shed a lot of tears watching that.’
‘The performance at the end was beautiful. Fantastic team work.’
At the start of the programme, Alisar-Jane, who runs the charity, revealed: ‘This group to me is my entire world. They’re absolutely amazing and they’re so inspirational.’
She started the project nine years ago because she wanted to create a space for people with additional needs to express themselves.
She said: ‘They can be insecure, broken…they’ve been through real hard battles. To see them achieve and make real friendships. To know we’re making a difference to their self confidence, it’s amazing.’
They were renting a space in a council building but the project has outgrown it.
Some of the charities members had autism or ADHD, so the charity also had a wellbeing area. But it was in the corner of a busy waiting room.
Because the charity had grown rapidly, with over 200 members, Ali said: ‘We’ve got the point where we’re so big, we don’t want to have waiting lists.
‘When we move to the new building, we can make that change and give those families what they deserve.’
On hand to make sure the build had everything a dance school needs and more were Strictly professionals drafted in by judge Anton Du Beke.
Swapping the Strictly ballroom for a building site and spending time getting to know some of the True Colours members were Katya Jones, Luba Mushtuk, Graziano Di Prima and Nancy Xu.
Hundreds of local volunteers quickly got to work – but there was a major structural issue which appeared within days of the build.
Larger cracks began appearing in the wall, with Nick saying: ‘We’re going to have to get an engineer in to discuss whether we need to tear down the wall and rebuild which will mean a delay, or whether he’ll let us tie it together.’
The team continued their work as they awaited confirmation from the engineer.
Luckily in the mean time, the team were able to create breakout spaces for children and their family members to relax in, as well as a beautiful sensory room for those dealing with anxiety.
Finally, the engineer came back and said the wall didn’t need to be taken down – and instead it could be tied together with steel bars.
Among those who will benefit from the build is dancer Charis, who has Down syndrome.
The 20-year-old met with Strictly professional Katya, and said she would be performing with True Colours and dedicating her performance to her father.
Ali said: ‘Sadly her dad passed away a couple of years ago and we’ve wrapped her in True Colours hug.’
Charis described him as ‘handsome’ and ‘charismatic’, while Katya said: ‘You’ve definitely inherited his charisma!’
Katya was joined by Nick to watch the tribute, with the 20-year-old performing in front of a photograph of her father to ‘Stand By Me.’
The team were left in floods of tears as Charis performed her dance for her father, while Nick said: ‘It’s clear to see how much this means to people like Charis.’
As the final days of the build approached, Gabby admitted she was concerned about whether the project was going to get finished.
However by Day 6, it was finally complete.
Outside, what once resembled a car park, was transformed with glittery paved paths and beautifully scented plants and flowers.
The main performance space underwent a huge glow-up, new flooring, an accessible stage and of course that all-important glitter ball, proudly switched on by Katya.
A donated platform lift provided essential access.
Ali was completely overwhelmed by the transformation: ‘It looks so different to what it was. It’s amazing.’
She called the build ‘a dream’, adding that the break out area was ‘beautiful.’
At the programme, the charity said thank you in the best way they know how… with a performance dedicated to the volunteers.
One performer said: ‘Before I came here, I just got turned away from everywhere. I’ve just got a palce now, so thankyou.
Meanwhile another said: ‘True Colours is a life line for me and it’s wrapped me in their arms. It’s just my home now.’
Ali said: ‘I can’t express how amazing every single person here is, and you’re our heroes. Thankyou, we are forever grateful.’
Ahead of the programme airing, Nick had said he was excited for the new series, saying: ‘We’re back, and what a way to kick off the Big Build with a brilliant group of Strictly stars that will inspire and delight the children, young adults and staff from True Colours.
‘This Performing Arts School really needs a transformation, they do an excellent job in Wallsend and if we can help them grow so they can accept more students, then we’re going to go above and beyond.’
Strictly favourite Anton added: ‘What Alisar-Jane and her team is doing is very special.
‘Myself, Katya and Graziano understand the power of dance and how it brings people together.
‘This could really transform not just the building but the community too. We are thrilled to help out and bring some Strictly magic to the proceedings. And who knows, we may see a future Strictly star in our midst!’