A DRAMA group for people with learning difficulties has scooped a £500 windfall after beating four other hopefuls to the cash in The Shuttle’s Community Chest initiative.

Readers voted in their thousands to make the New Horizons Youth Arts Group the winners of the scheme, run in association with Taylor Wimpey, which is building new homes at Stour Valley in Kidderminster.

Thegroup was one of five worthy causes whittled down from 33 to battle it out in a special poll on The Shuttle’s website. It received 36 per cent of the 5,500 votes cast.

The cash will be used to help the theatre company, which was set up in Kidderminster about nine years ago, stage its annual production next year.

Jacqueline Hateley, chairman, said: “It really is brilliant to win the money. We can’t operate without any funding. It means such a lot that we’ve got the support because we were up against other groups, so it’s a testament to the people who have voted online.  To us, it’s
really great .”

Elaine Taylor, sales and marketing director for Taylor Wimpey West Midlands, said: “We were
delighted New Horizons were the winners and are really looking forward to next year’s performance.

“The charity is much-loved among families in Kidderminster and we are pleased to recognise the good work it does in the community.

“We are delighted with the re sponse to the Community Chest initiative and it was fantastic to see so many great causes nomi ated by Shuttle readers.”

The drama group, run from Kidderminster and District Youth House, has 22 members, aged from 16 to early 30s and who have varying degrees of learning difficulties.

They meet for six months of the year to learn dance and dra - ma before putting on a produc - tion at the Rose Theatre.

It costs about £5,000 to stage a play and Mrs Hateley said they had performed their last four shows to full houses of more than 180 people.

They are expecting the same success when the curtain goes up on their next production, Once Upon a Dream , based on Sleeping Beauty, at the end of March to an invited audience.

“It’s grown an awful lot from how it used to be,” Mrs Hateley explained. “We have people who are severely disabled to people who can operate on a high level.

“They absolutely love it. It’s hard work for us but we get such a lot out of it. It helps with their speech, co-ordination and confidence. They’ve just grown and grown and grown. It’s really a joy to see how they’ve come on.”

The group meets every other week from September until December and then every week af - ter Christmas until the produc - tion in March.

“It really is a worthwhile cause,” Mrs Hateley said.

The group is also looking for costume makers to help with productions. Anyone interested should contact 01299 828512.