A mother and son have landed starring roles in a new campaign being launched by a charity which uses the power of live music to enhance the lives of learning disabled people.

The campaign being launched by Electric Umbrella this week is called ‘Plug In’ and encourages everyone across the country to join their community.

The Hertfordshire-based charity Electric Umbrella was set up five years ago by Mel Boda and Tom Billington to provide a platform for learning disabled people to enjoy live music. The charity organises gigs, operas, musicals and even festivals.

During the pandemic they launched online sessions bringing fun interactive shows, singalongs, often with inspiring guests, for their hundreds of members, many of whom relied on these social and creative sessions to get them through this difficult time.

Guests have included celebrities Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Toyah Willcox, Andrew Self, Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling and Tony Hadley - the two latter also sang on the charity’s Christmas single The Best Christmas (In Lockdown).

Ryan, 18, from Watford, has Agenesis of Corpus Callosum (ACC), a rare disorder that is present at birth. It is characterised by a partial or complete absence of an area of the brain that connects the two cerebral hemispheres.

The teenager has limited verbal skills but he loves taking part in Electric Umbrella music sessions with his mum Jenny. For this campaign he appears in a moving film with his mum, where she talks candidly about some of the challenges they face and how taking part in Electric Umbrella sessions helps them both. They will also feature on social media posts.

Jenny said: "Ryan has a great sense of humour and he’s known as an entertainer. He can’t read or write but he likes people around him to be happy and to me that’s much more valuable. Having Ryan has given me opportunities to do things that I would never have otherwise done.

"Electric Umbrella has become a bit like a family for us because there are so many other parents of people with special needs so it shows me what lies ahead and there are people I can go to for advice.

"It’s also an amazing outlet for creativity, I’ve always been a colourful, arty, crafty person and this has given me a way to use it to everyone’s advantage so it’s perfect for me."

During lockdown, more than 1,500 people joined the Electric Umbrella community, and they have huge ambitions to grow that number with a blend of digital first and face to face sessions planned in the months ahead.

Electric Umbrella creative director and co-founder Tom said: "We believe our members can do anything they want and be anyone they want to be and we encourage them every step of the way.

"We’d love to see a world where people are no longer defined by their disability but they are recognised for their incredible talents.

"Our members are so full of energy and embrace life with such enthusiasm. I believe if more people had these qualities the world would be a better place."

Mel Boda, Electric Umbrella’s chief executive and co-founder, added: "We're inviting people to plug in, switch on, and get ready for the ride of their life with this campaign.

We want everyone to experience the joy and power of music and see how it brings people together from all walks of life.

"Best of all, it’s completely free to join Electric Umbrella, and you don’t need any referral from your local authority."