A group of young autistic film-makers from the North East beat hundreds of national and international charities to win two silver medals at a prestigious charity film award in London.

The Autism Activists Group, run by the North East Autism Society, planned, wrote and produced their film Let Me Be Me with the help of animator Graeme Patterson. 

It beat films by other charities such as Samaritans and CARE International to win the judges’ silver medal at the Smiley Charity Film Awards held in London’s Leicester Square last night.

And the group of nine to 18-year-olds also attracted an incredible amount of public support to win silver in the People’s Choice award for their category, based on the number of public votes.

NEAS Family Development Manager Kerrie Highcock, who helps run the group, said: “I am so, so proud of this group of young people. What an amazing achievement and what a wonderful accolade for all their hard work. 

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for the Activists and helped spread that message of autism acceptance.Autistic young people are often underrepresented within society, so this is a brilliant platform for them to be able to get their voices heard.

Written in their own words, and using their own illustrations, the film Let Me Be Me focuses on the voices and lived experiences of the young people who created it.

The project began in October 2022 as part of NEAS’ Everyday Equality campaign, which put autistic voices front and centre to address the barriers people face in their daily lives.

NEAS chief executive, John Phillipson, challenged the Activists to create a film about human rights focused on dignity, equality and respect. 

Edward Armstrong, 18, one of the group’s members, said: “I’m really passionate about human rights and the voices of young autistic people being heard, so I was proud to be part of making the film because it will help raise awareness. 

Another member, Lucie, said: “The film is about recognising that autistic and neurodiverse people have unique talents, so they may need to be accommodated in different ways in order to succeed.”

See the film at: www.smileycharityfilmawards.com/films/let-me-be-me.