I see a lot of talent and ambition here in North Staffordshire – and few epitomise it more than Rachel Shenton. This is a young woman with a spirit, a sense of purpose, and real vision. It takes a certain person to have that combination – and she has those attributes by the spade-full.
I’ve known Rachel for a while – she’s a brand ambassador for M Club, and has staged charity events here. When I first met her I was struck by the positivity that surrounded her. I could tell straight away she’s the kind of person who makes things happen. What I didn’t know at that stage was that she was capable of making even Hollywood sit up and take notice.
When Rachel first started talking to me about a film project I’ll freely admit it was a whole new world for me. I very much keep my eyes open to what is happening around me, and I’ve always been willing to take on board different ventures and ideas, but the film industry is not one familiar to me.
Rachel told me she had written a screenplay, The Silent Child, telling the story of a profoundly deaf girl who lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker, played by Rachel, teaches her the gift of communication. The idea now was to turn the screenplay into a living breathing entity under the direction of her fiance Chris Overton. But films don’t come cheap. They need backers and Rachel asked if I’d like to be involved by offering some sponsorship.
She told me what the film was about, what it meant to her, and I found her a very inspirational character. Her own father lost his hearing suddenly when she was 12 and lived the last two years of his life profoundly deaf. She saw for herself how isolating deafness can be.
I believe in the idea of a sixth sense, an instinct to back certain people or ideas. That is what definitely happened with Rachel and The Silent Child. It was a gut reaction – it felt right. I could see Rachel had got a real focus and direction about her. I could detect her passion and inner belief. I liked her determination, her get up and go, the real steel in her. Those attributes are very contagious. My view was, “OK, I’m in!”
As a business person, diversification is the key – not being a one-trick pony. I have never taken a blinkered view of life, preferring to be receptive to new ideas and opportunities. I have taken decisions that others would definitely have shied away from, or never sensed in the first place.
Now more than ever we need to be open-eyed and open-minded. At the moment it feels a little as if we are living with the hangover of not securing City of Culture. But Rachel’s Oscar nomination is a reminder that we have plenty of talent in North Staffordshire who we can encourage and nurture from within.
When The Silent Child was nominated – and went on to win – I was delighted not only for Rachel and Chris, but the fact it was going to throw the spotlight on deafness awareness.
In Rachel, I see a young talented person wanting to make a name for herself in a way that has positive repercussions for society as a whole. We should applaud her.
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