Ever wondered what it’s like to have a rubbish day? Nope, me neither, I can recall days so rubbish they’d overwhelm our city waste disposal site, no wondering necessary. But George Webster? He wonders a lot because his days always score ten out of ten.
I first met George, from Rawdon, when he volunteered at Woodhouse Moor parkrun, Leeds, where I’m now Event Director. He was a young teenager and was brought along by a friend of George’s mum Jane, to help us collect the finish tokens. He soon became a regular feature and helped keep missing tokens to a minimum as everyone wanted to return their tokens to George.
Even then, George had ambition, he knew what he wanted and had no doubts that he would get there. He’s only 22, but has achieved more than many of his peers and his star keeps on rising, which is all the more remarkable as George has Down’s Syndrome. According to the Mencap website, people with Down’s have some degree of learning disability. You could have fooled me, George is one of the smartest men I know!
As well as being a dancer, working with Mind the Gap, the performing arts company for people with learning disabilities, George is also an actor, starring in the award-winning short film S.A.M. and has appeared in Casualty and the new Railway Children film. His guest appearance on the children’s programme CBeebies led to him securing the regular presenter spot, and he’s blooming brilliant at it, he even has a BAFTA to prove it!
His volunteering at parkrun made him want to try running. Actually he didn’t really WANT to run, he was more persuaded by his dad Rob, who is a keen parkrunner. Not that I’m one to tell tales, but I well remember that first parkrun, George sat on a bench and refused to go any further, at that point it was a nine out of ten day for him, but he got up and got on – back to ten! Last month he completed his 100th parkrun, proudly wearing his Hyde Park Harriers colours and a tutu, it’s a bit of a tradition for milestones.
During lockdown, when we couldn’t parkrun, we had a virtual coffee each week at parkrun o’clock. George always joined us, and was keen to chat about the latest TV programmes he loves. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Strictly Come Dancing and made no secret of his desire to appear on the show. Guess what, he did! He starred in the Christmas special when he dazzled us with his golden Charleston. He got to try out Shirley’s judge’s chair and met Craig (he’s really tall, says George), he loved working with Amy (she’s LOVELY, says George) and of course they are now great friends. And he got to keep his golden shoes, which we’re hoping he’ll wear at the Harriers’ Christmas party.
We’re looking forward to seeing more of him on our screens, obviously he has to keep any future roles under his hat, but that’s fine, we can wait. Personally I’d love to see him as a Dr Who companion, it’s one of his favourite shows. You read it here first.
During World Book Week George has launched his book This is Me, a joyful, colourful children’s book about his life, where he maintains that we are all special and we can all shine. Well, George, you should know!