A schoolboy who battled serious health problems after being born prematurely is now being dubbed as South Shields’ answer to Billy Elliot after he won a place at a prestigious ballet school.
Twelve-year-old Gray Pattinson has only been doing ballet for the past three years but the dedicated performer has been given a scholarship at performing arts centre The Hammond School in Chester.
It means Gray’s dream of performing on the West End stage in musicals is one step closer.
His proud mum Jenn, 47, of Grotto Road in South Shields, told the Gazette: “He only started dancing when he was about eight or nine and back then he did Irish and tap dancing.
“He’s been involved with the Customs House Summer School, South Shields All Stars and David Ducasse Performers so he’s always been interested in the arts. He actually plays the saxophone and clarinet as well.
“When he was 10 he decided to take up ballet and I took him to Kathleen Burdon and he’s just gone on from there.
“I’m so proud of him for getting into this school.
“He’s been dubbed South Shields’ Billy Elliot and people ask me about how he is getting on about all the time.
“I know it’s unusual for a boy to get into this kind of thing, but he’s never had any negativity or criticism from anyone.
“The whole town is behind him.”
Gray, who goes to St Wilfrid’s School in South Shields, has previously unsuccessfully auditioned for Elmhurst Associates, in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Gray’s success comes after he endured a difficult start to life when he was born seven weeks’ premature.
His heart rate went dangerously low, which prompted his consultant to deliver him via an emergency caesarean section.
Gray was then in South Tyneside District Hosspital’s Special Baby Care Unit for just short of six weeks as he had initial feeding problems.
He was 3lb born and was fitting, had high temperatures, Norovirus, various sickness episodes and had to be under the watch of a consultant until he was three-years-old.
His fitting was eventually diagnosed as Paroxamol Tonic Upgaze, a non epileptic version of epilepsy which is common in premature babies.
Thankfully he grew out of the condition and now has no health issues.
“With Elmhurst he got right to the final but sadly he didn’t get a place,” added Jenn, also mum to Gray’s brothers Rory, 22, and Jordan, 17.
“But he was always been a little fighter, he only weighed 3lbs when he was born seven weeks premature.
“I’d said to him when he was younger did he not want to play football like most boys do, but when he went to play he would just end up breaking into a dance.
“When you talk to him he says his ideal job is to be in a West End musical one day.
“He would also love to play Ryan Gosling’s character in La La Land.”
Jenn, whose partner Gary Keenan, 45, has helped to support Gray in making his dreams become a reality, is now looking for help with sponsorship towards Gray’s scholarship.
Anyone who may be able to help should contact her on 07717115142.