The theatre-lov­ing pupil who went fromvic­tim to na­tional hero

The Wokingham Paper - - NEWS - By TAZ USHER tusher@wok­ing­ham­pa­per.co.uk

“THE theatre is my tribe. It’s where I be­long”

An Ar­bor­field school­boy bul­lied for his love of mu­si­cal theatre has won the hearts of the na­tion with his an­tibul­ly­ing cam­paign, #CheerUpCha­r­lie.

Ten-year-old Char­lie Kris­tensen, who was tar­geted for his love of singing and danc­ing, went vi­ral last year as lead­ing West End stars united to give him the boost he needed.

The on­line at­ten­tion all came from a tweet from Char­lie’s mu­sic teacher, Jacqueline Hughes who used her plat­form to call on her friends in the Arts.

Ms Hughes wrote: “I know many peo­ple face bul­lies ev­ery day and many have in their life­time. But I won­dered if you wouldn’t mind, if you have time send­ing me a lit­tle video to cheer him up, maybe some ad­vice, your own sto­ries, how you didn’t let them stop you, what you are do­ing now.”

In the days fol­low­ing his teacher’s tweet, Char­lie re­ceived heart­felt mes­sages and videos of sup­port from per­form­ers in shows in­clud­ing

Wicked, The Lion King and Aladdin.

And it was this newwave of love and en­cour­age­ment that con­vinced Char­lie to trans­form his ex­pe­ri­ences of bul­ly­ing into a cam­paign which would help other chil­dren like him.

Char­lie said: “I was bul­lied re­ally badly at school for do­ing some­thing I love. I was called names and hurt just be­cause I’m a boy and I like to dance.

“I didn’t fit the stereo­type the bul­lies wanted me to.

“I was very close to giv­ing up on my dream but when I re­ceived the mes­sages from the West End stars I re­alised that I was much more im­por­tant than the bul­lies’ opin­ions of me.

“One day I recorded a video of me per­form­ing in my shed and be­fore I knew it I had 300,000 views.

“From then on I fell back in love with per­form­ing and took my videos to the next level.”

Since cre­at­ing his first video, Char­lie has launched his own YouTube ac­count which cur­rently has 1,850 sub­scribers.

And the lat­est ad­di­tion to his chan­nel is the Mu­si­cal Chairs with #CheerUpCha­r­lie show which the young star has been work­ing on dur­ing lock­down with the help of London’s Theatre Café.

Char­lie ex­plained: “In each video I in­ter­view a dif­fer­ent ac­tor, mu­si­cian or artist about their lives, per­form­ing back­ground and ex­pe­ri­ences of bul­ly­ing.

“The aim of the show is to share un­known, un­heard and un­lis­tened to sto­ries.

“I re­ally en­joy the video calls be­cause I get to dig deep into the stars’ pasts.

“Be­fore each in­ter­view I do my re­search and then ask them a big range of ques­tions- some se­ri­ous, some not so se­ri­ous.

“My favourite ques­tion to ask is what their most dis­gust­ing habit is. Nathan Wy­burn finds pick­ing his nose ther­a­peu­tic.”

Guests in Char­lie’s Mu­si­cal Chairs line-up have in­cluded Kerry El­lis, Michael Xavier, Nathaniel Mor­ri­son

and Will Poul­ter among oth­ers.

The en­thu­si­as­tic young­ster has also per­formed a duet with Matt Lu­cas to the hugely pop­u­lar Baked Potato Song and chat­ted with Michael Ball dur­ing an in­ter­view on BBC Break­fast.

Char­lie added: “The stars are like my fam­ily. The theatre is my tribe. It’s where I be­long.”

And as well as per­form­ing to the cam­era, Char­lie has taken to big stages to share his jour­ney and en­cour­age oth­ers to stand up to bul­ly­ing.

In Novem­ber last year Char­lie re­duced an au­di­ence of 5,000 peo­ple to tears with a speech he per­formed at the Diana Awards held at London’s Alexan­dra Palace.

Char­lie, who is the youngest am­bas­sador for the pro­gramme, said: “It was a nerve-rack­ing but amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I was shocked to dis­cover that 75% of au­di­ence mem­bers had been vic­tims of bul­ly­ing so I was re­ally de­ter­mined to share my story and help them in any way that I could.”

The keen cam­paigner is also plan­ning a West End char­ity con­cert in

Con­vent Gar­den when gath­er­ings of the type are al­lowed.

And ad­ding to his list of achieve­ments, Char­lie is now us­ing his plat­form to re­quest the Prime Min­is­ter’s help with sav­ing UK the­atres.

He said: “I wrote a let­ter to Boris John­son be­cause I can’t imag­ine a fu­ture with­out en­ter­tain­ment or the­atres.

“Go­ing to the theatre makes me feel alive and I just love it too much to see it go.

“I could see six shows ev­ery­day for a week and I would never get bored.

“Ev­ery time I see a show it is dif­fer­ent and makes me see the story in a newway.

“The feel­ing you get when watch­ing a show live at the theatre is some­thing you just don’t get with films or TV.

“There’s no sec­ond take at the theatre. Once the ac­tors are on stage it’s their chance to shine.”

And while the young­ster’s star­dom has seen his pro­duc­tion crew grow be­hind the scenes, one mem­ber of his team has given him love and sup­port from the start.

Char­lie’s mum Kat said: “I’m so un­be­liev­ably proud of Char­lie. Look­ing back at the po­si­tion he was in this time last year, I could never have pre­dicted he would grow this much as a per­son, es­pe­cially after all that he’s been through.

“He has only just turned 10 yet is do­ing things not even adults would have the con­fi­dence to do.

“Ev­ery speech and in­ter­view he does is 100% his own hard work.

“I am amazed that such a lit­tle boy has so much spirit, de­ter­mi­na­tion and courage in­side of him.

“Stars from across the coun­try may have taken him un­der their wing, but I will al­ways be his mum. I’m so proud of him and what he has achieved.”

Char­lie’s fu­ture plans in­clude per­form­ing on the West End and Broad­way, pre­sent­ing, and con­tin­u­ing his role as an anti-bul­ly­ing cam­paigner.

In the mean­time, and un­til the­atres open, Char­lie will con­tinue to host his YouTube shows and re­ply to emails from chil­dren, who like him, have been bul­lied and need some help.

Ten-year-old Char­lie Kris­tensen has used lock­down to cre­ate an on­line chan­nel where he in­ter­views stars from the stage

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