Derbyshire pub landlady enters Ms Galaxy UK pageant to spotlight school café project

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The landlady of a Derbyshire pub is to compete in national beauty pageant in 2024, hoping to shine a light on a major fundraising campaign by her local school to open a new café which will give skills training to students with special educational needs.

Tracey Messenger, 57, of the Boot & Slipper in Swanwick, has been selected as Ms Amber Valley for her age group in the United Kingdom Galaxy competition, taking place in Warrington in March.

As well as eveningwear, ballgown and swimwear modelling rounds, contestants must demonstrate positive impact in their community, and Tracey’s will take some beating.

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She said: “Walking down a catwalk doesn’t bother me, I’m a confident person and a pageant like this gives everybody a chance to shine for who they are. You just have to go there and do your best.

Pub landlady Tracey Messenger is competing to be named Ms Galaxy 2024.Pub landlady Tracey Messenger is competing to be named Ms Galaxy 2024.
Pub landlady Tracey Messenger is competing to be named Ms Galaxy 2024.

“The winners will go to the USA to compete in a world pageant, but my real passion is for the children at Alfreton Park School, and raising as much money as possible for them.”

Tracey and pub regulars began collecting money for the school last year to deliver Christmas presents to students aged two to 19 with a diverse range of complex needs and disabilities.

She said: “It’s so rewarding to see where the money goes, and just the other night we had a band on I went round with a bucket and collected £110 in one go. We’ve got a pot on the bar and all our regulars are 100 per cent behind it.”

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While drumming up another haul of Christmas gifts, Tracey is also now fundraising for the school’s project to open a café in Alfreton Park which will be run by the students and other people with learning disabilities.

An architect's vision for how the Deer Shed Café will look once it is built.An architect's vision for how the Deer Shed Café will look once it is built.
An architect's vision for how the Deer Shed Café will look once it is built.

Headteacher Josie O’Donnell said: “Securing the best outcomes for our pupils and enabling them to stay ambitious and follow their dreams is at the heart of what we do.

“So many of our pupils have high hopes for their future, including securing some form of employment, feeling a sense of purpose in their community and most importantly a sense of belonging.”

She added: “Fewer than 2,500 people with a learning disability in England are in paid employment of more than 16 hours per week, which is a devastating statistic considering Mencap's research, which found that 65 per cent of people with a learning disability want to work.

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“We are seeking to raise £300,000 to build a better future for our young people and a high-quality café set in the beautiful parkland. Without the support of people like Tracey and her customers, our dreams won’t become a reality and we are so incredibly grateful to them.”

Students are already getting a taste for the business by running a regular pop-up snack bar outside the school.

Charlie, 17, said: “It's a great experience for me having to go out and serve customers and I love doing it."

Kevin, 17, added: “To be a chef you need to be creative, have good customer service skills and be friendly. Working at the pop-up café helps me with confidence and gets me used to talking to more people.”

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The project has received donations from numerous other businesses.

Anyone interested in offering support can contact [email protected], donate at https://tinyurl.com/bpbycd3t or follow facebook.com/TheDeerShed for updates.

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