Lost Voice Guy comedian aims to inspire new generation of disabled performers

Lee Ridley with Paula Gascoigne, CEO of Smile For Life. Picture by Rusbymedia

Lee Ridley with Paula Gascoigne, CEO of Smile For Life. Picture by Rusbymedia

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A voiceless comedian who performs using an iPad is hoping to inspire others to achieve their dreams.

Lee Ridley developed a successful career in comedy while working for Sunderland City Council as an online content manager.

His The Lost Voice Guy shows have become one of the North East's biggest comedy exports, including forming part of the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

The 36-year-old, who has cerebral palsy communicates through an electronic device, also landed a BBC Radio 4 show called Ability, and he was named as the BBC New Comedy award winner in 2014.

Now Lee has been appointed of North East children's charity Smile For Life, and hopes to show others that disability should not be an obstacle to success - and use his role to get more disabled young people involved in comedy and performing.

He said: “I am just really excited to get involved and I am really happy that I was asked to come on board with Smile For Life.

Lee Ridley, Paula Gascoigne, CEO of Smile For Life and Paul Wallwork, a student who works in the charity's Cafe Beam. Picture by Rusbymedia

Lee Ridley, Paula Gascoigne, CEO of Smile For Life and Paul Wallwork, a student who works in the charity's Cafe Beam. Picture by Rusbymedia

“I like the idea of getting some of the young people the charity support interested in performing – as long as they are not too funny!

“If I had had a disabled role model as a young person growing up, it would have definitely helped me and made me more confident and social.

“I had amazing support from my school and family as I was growing up so I know how that can benefit a person.”

Lee, from Consett, attended Percy Hedley school in Newcastle with Paralympian and good friend Stephen Miller, who has also worked with Smile For Life by hosting sporting events for disabled students.

Lee Ridley, Paula Gascoigne, CEO of Smile For Life and Paul Wallwork, a student who works in the charity's Cafe Beam. Picture by Rusbymedia

Lee Ridley, Paula Gascoigne, CEO of Smile For Life and Paul Wallwork, a student who works in the charity's Cafe Beam. Picture by Rusbymedia

He said: : “I think that the charity provides a great opportunity for disabled young people and I am happy to be a part of it. I think that it is a real honour and I hope that we can achieve a lot together.”

Paula Gascoigne, chief executive for Smile For Life Children’s Charity, believes Lee will be a fantastic inspiration to many disabled children and young people.

She said: “He stands for everything that the charity stands for – overcoming obstacles and not letting things get in your way. Lee has proven that there are no limits to what you can achieve and we are very proud to have him as our new patron.”

The pair met when Lee performed at the charity’s fundraiser Smile For A Night Variety Show at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in 2015 and 2016.

“Lee has become a good friend of the charity, he is hugely popular and the young people we support can relate to him,” said Paula.

As part of his role, Lee has been running comedy workshops for Smile For Life, and hopes to dispel some of the stigma surrounding disability through public speaking.

He recently visited Smile For Life’s Café Beam in Gosforth, which is staffed by young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, to find out more about the work they do across the region.

Paul Wallwork, one of the youngsters that works in the charity’s Cafe Beam in Gosforth, was there to meet Lee during his visit and was excited to learn just what the comedian has achieved, despite having no voice.

The 22-year-old, who has learning difficulties, said: “It helps when you see someone who is successful with a disability, that is good for others to see. I think he will be great as patron, he’s done really well with his comedy.”

For more information on Smile For Life Children’s Charity and the work they do go to www.smileforlife.org.uk or search @SmileforlifeNE on social media.