WORLD-FAMOUS artist Mackenzie Thorpe has officially opened one of our schools and unveiled a special artwork dedicated to the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

Teesside-born Mackenzie is a proud patron of NEAS and opened our school – named in his honour – during World Autism Acceptance Week.

Since opening the doors to the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, in partnership with Redcar Borough Council, in September 2020, we've supported autistic children and young people at the school in South Bank.

However, having been forced to delay the official opening due to the pandemic, the number of pupils at the school has now grown from 12 to 30.

To mark the official opening, Mackenzie produced a stunning work of art, featuring Middlesbrough’s iconic Transport Bridge, and entitled Welcome To My World – capturing the spirit of acceptance promoted within our services.

A print of the painting was unveiled during the opening ceremony, and will be displayed in the school, while discussions take place about how the original will be used to support the Society.

Mackenzie said: “I stand here today as the proudest man in the world because it means so much for my name to be associated with a place that is changing lives through dedication and love.

I will support the charity until the day I die and, after that, my son, Owen, will have the responsibility of carrying it on. It is in our blood now.

NEAS Chief Executive, John Phillipson, added: “Money could never buy the kind of support that we’ve received from Mackenzie – it is absolutely priceless. Through his inspirational talent, he has raised the profile of the charity, opened doors, and made people stop and think about autism and neurodiversity and what we are trying to achieve. We can never thank him enough.”

Invited guests included Redcar MP Jacob Young, who praised our vision as a charity, saying:

For over 40 years, the society has done so much to help improve the lives of autistic people across the North-East, but also to change behaviours and practices around support. But there’s still so much to learn and that’s where the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre will shine – becoming a flagship for the best practices and latest innovations to help autistic people to live their best possible lives, to be included and accepted.

Mackenzie and his wife, Susan, were given a tour of the school, viewed a gallery of artworks produced by the pupils, and helped to bury a time-capsule.

The time-capsule was filled with items suggested by the pupils, including coins, a train ticket, Covid-related items such as masks, hand sanitiser, and lateral flow test kits, as well as press articles about Mackenzie.

Teaching assistant Irene Recseg, who led on the time-capsule project, said: “Each class teacher explained what the time-capsule was and helped with ideas of what to put in. It was lovely to see the pupils excited at the prospect of people digging it up in many years to come, and seeing what they had put in.”

The school’s principal, Tracey Train, added: “To have Mackenzie Thorpe as our patron, to have the work of art unveiled for us, and then to see him interact with the pupils, means everything.”

The opening of the new school is part of our multi-million pound expansion of services. And, since the opening of The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, we have already opened a second school on Teesside by repurposing a disused community building called Kiora Hall, at Norton, Stockton.

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