Ann Duke with youngsters at Walk Tall. Picture: Ashley Carter
Walk Tall offers youngsters the opportunity to express themselves and learn through art.
The organisation is the Messenger’s Charity of the Year and was chosen from many other applicants that got through to the final stages.
Run by Ann, a former teacher and trained chemist, along with a dedicated team of mainly volunteers, the Northfleet charity focuses on a wide range of art forms from drama, music and dance to film making, painting and photography.
From starting in her home, it is now based in an office block on an industrial estate and even has its own theatre.
Although the organisation is open to all children, another key focus is therapy, with counselling available to those who need it.
There is also the chance for young people who struggle at school to get extra help with Walk Tall’s trained teachers. Previous students have also gone on to gain a level two BTEC in peer education, which helps improve their social skills and encourages them to help others in discussing and working through their own issues.
Walk Tall’s reach is far and wide, holding drama workshops in schools all over Kent.
Ms Duke described her charity as “Northfleet’s best kept secret” and is passionate about the work she and the team carry out.
Walk Tall encourages people to follow their creative desires no matter their ability and it has put on plays and pantomimes.
Ann Duke. Picture: Ashley Carter
Ms Duke said: “It is very important to us that we are totally inclusive, whether a person has special needs or whether they are gifted. We do have so many gifted and talented people through our doors.”
One of them is Ashley Carter, 20, who has been with Walk Tall since he was 16. He is in his final year of studying photography at North West Kent College, specialising in portraits – including casting headshots – and theatre photography.
He took the photographs on this page.
Although many who go to Walk Talk are young, there is also a chance for adults with a love of the arts to benefit.
Ms Duke said: “Anyone who wants to express themselves can come to Walk Tall.
“For instance there could be ladies or gentlemen who are returning to work and have lost a bit of confidence when it comes to communication with others and just want to get back to being themselves.
“We want to say to people ‘come and join the Walk Tall family’. Come and be with us, we really do have that family feel and welcome anyone.
“We have people who, when they join, feel very nervous but that disappears almost instantly when they start to make connections with people.”
Walk Tall is based in a large office block, once home to staff from Britannia Refined Metals in Lower Walk near Ebbsfleet United FC’s ground.
The charity partly funds itself by hiring out the professional actors and creative directors on the team to those in the industry who want to hone their skills.
Among the labyrinth of multi-purpose art rooms and performance studios at the Walk Tall headquarters lies the fruits of the students’ creative labours – an eclectic range of art from colourful canvases inspired by graffiti artist Banksy to sculptures and photographs.
There is also a recording studio where jingles and songs have been produced.
For the many young people at Walk Tall in need of a chat, there are private counselling rooms.
They can speak with one of 20 trained volunteer counsellors about anything, whether it be about domestic problems, bullying, health issues or career advice.
To find out more about Walk Tall, log onto www.walk-tall.org.uk