A TEENAGE boy with a life-threatening brain tumour has achieved his dream of starring in a Christmas pop video, thanks to Stretford Mall.
Ryan Drury, who is living with a 3cm wide tumour in his brain, plays the lead character in a Christmas single written and performed by pupils at Ashcroft School – with some key scenes filmed inside the shopping centre.
Managers at Stretford Mall agreed the video could be filmed at Ryan’s local shopping centre, after hearing the plot includes scenes where he peers in shop windows dreaming of the perfect Christmas.
Ryan, aged 14, suffers memory loss and epilepsy, as well as struggling with his speech, as a result of the tumour, which was discovered growing in his brain five years ago.
So he was delighted to be chosen by staff at Ashcroft School, to play the main character in their three-minute music video, entitled This Is My Christmas.
The song penned by Ryan and his school friends is called This is My Christmas. The plot follows a fictional child from a tough background dreaming of the perfect Christmas, and going to his local shopping centre to look at toys he may never have.
He then goes to meet Santa in a fictitious grotto, and afterwards all his dreams come true. The music kicks in as the lead character is enjoying Christmas with his family and friends.
The video has now been released on YouTube to help raise funds for Ashcroft School, which is an independent special school that caters for children and young people aged 5 to 18 who have struggled to cope in other educational settings.
After the day’s filming at Stretford Mall, where Ryan and his mum Amy regularly shop, he said it was the sort of thing most teenagers only ever dream of.
He said: “It was good. I was the only one in it, so I had to do all the filming but it is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Ryan’s mum Amy praised Ashcroft School for their innovative approach to boosting Ryan’s self-esteem and confidence.
She said: “It’s a really good idea and a great thing for them to do. Ryan started at Ashcroft mainly because he was already having behavioural problems – he has ADHD – and once he started getting one-to-one support the difference was amazing, especially in his concentration levels.
“Doing something like this as well will be great for his confidence too.
“They think he might have had the tumour since he was born, but it was only discovered five years ago. He was seeing a paediatrician for behaviour issues and they sent him for a routine MRI scan and found this mass on his brain.
“It is benign, and if they were to operate on it they wouldn’t be able to get all of it anyway, so at the moment it is just a case of monitoring it and seeing what happens.
“At the moment his speech can be affected and his memory – sometimes you can have a whole conversation with him and he’ll have it again a few minutes later – but he’s doing well at school.”
Any surgery on Ryan’s tumour could be dangerous so Amy is hoping it doesn’t grow any more or cause any further problems.
While Ryan approaches his GCSEs at Ashcroft and is thriving at school, the chance to get involved in the video filming was something he had always wanted to do.
He said: “I played the part of the main character and the plot is about this boy who dreams of getting loads of expensive gifts for Christmas.
“It was fun but I did get a bit camera shy at first and a bit shaky when we first did it, but then I got used to it.”
Gareth Wilkins, shopping centre manager at Stretford Mall said: “Ashcroft Special School does great work for children across the Greater Manchester area.
“As Ryan and his mum’s local shopping centre, we were more than happy to step in to help by allowing filming inside the mall.
“It seemed to go well on the day and we’re happy to support such an innovative project, I hope lots of people watch the film and make a donation to support Ashcroft Special School.”
Amy added: “It went well at Stretford Mall and they did a couple of scenes at home as well. It’s something they do every so often at Ashcroft and Ryan likes it.
“He can get a bit shy and nervous at first but he likes doing it and it helps build up his self-esteem.”
Paul Hine is a freelance drama practitioner who works regularly at Ashcroft and was responsible for the production of the Christmas single.
He said: “I worked with a team of artists to enable the young people to make this single themselves.
“We helped them come up with ideas and then tunes and then compose it, record it using the equipment before filming the video for it too.
“The idea of the plot is that this kid writes out a Christmas list for loads of really expensive toys and his family don’t have the money for any of it so his dad gives him a fiver instead.
“He wanders round the shops, which is the bit we filmed at Stretford Mall, and realises he can’t afford any of the things he wants with the money.
“Then he spots a sign for a grotto. He gets a gift from Santa and it’s magical – it shows him scenes of him together with all his family having a great time and enjoying being close to them rather than all the material things he had been wishing for.
“So there’s a moral about Christmas being about people not things.”
Paul said Ryan showed promise as an aspiring actor during the filming, which was carried out by independent videographer Mark Haig.
Paul, aged 36, said: “Ryan was fantastic. He’s a pretty good actor and was very professional throughout. He stood out early on as being someone we could rely on for the main part.
“I’ve worked with the school on a few projects now and it’s great for the kids. It’s about giving them a creative output, teaching problem solving and instilling a self confidence in them too.
“A lot of them haven’t got strong literacy skills and this offers them an alternative route to achievement that they may not otherwise have found.
“It’s practical, it’s creative and it keeps them engaged.”
Ryan enjoys English and Art at school and hopes to go on to college and become a teacher one day, while Amy is studying to become a counsellor.
The Together Trust which runs Ashcroft Special School charity has been in existence since 1870 and has a wealth of history in Manchester, Salford and Stockport.
The Together Trust provides a wide range of support services including fostering, residential, community and family support.
The charity runs three specialist schools, Ashcroft School, Inscape House School and Bridge College.
To watch the This is My Christmas video visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dytczoKmIeU
To make a donation or find out more about Ashcroft School and the Together Trust, please visit: http://www.togethertrust.org.uk/fundraising/ways-give
For information about Stretford Mall go to www.stretfordmall.com follow @StretfordMall on Twitter or visit the centre’s Facebook page.