Eva Abley is a former NICE beneficiary, and now a NICE Patron. Eva shot to fame when she took to the stage to perform on Britain’s Got Talent in 2022, dazzling the judges and audience with stand-up comedy routines about living with cerebral palsy, home-schooling, and her life in general. At our NICE Ball 2024, she spoke about her time at Red Boots – the children’s service at NICE, and her journey through disability.

See below her speech:

“My name is Eva, and I was a pupil at Red Boots Conductive Education thirteen years ago I attended from the age of 3 till I was 6. How time flies. I was born with a condition called cerebral palsy. My parents told me that my early diagnosis was that I wouldn’t be able to walk, I would find it hard to communicate, and life would be a struggle. I think I’ve proved that diagnosis wrong, and I can honestly say it’s because of the start I had at Red Boots.

My family was told about Red Boots by one of my solicitors from Irwin Mitchell. My mom told me that she was a little sceptical at first after doing some research, but apparently, my first session with Erica was amazing. I still remember that voice in my head when I’m struggling with something. “Come On, Eva.” It gave me the foundation of never giving up, and you can achieve anything. Something that will stay with me for life.

I remember cutting up a banana with my good friend J. It might seem weird to some, but when you have tremors and shakes, it’s another milestone achieved. Another memory I have is one day falling over off balanced at someone’s feet. My mom reminds me to this day that it was the amazing Joan Collins who had visited the centre.

I attended mainstream school from the age of 6, popping back to Red Boots for afternoon sessions. Mom and Dad driving me up and down the M6. I think it was the M6 that I have learned most of the words I’m not allowed to repeat. I admit mainstream school was tough. I felt very isolated, I didn’t have many friends, and the friends I had were my one-to-one and the teachers.

At the age of 13, I couldn’t take it anymore. The thought of going to school put me in a state of depression. How I would love to be back with J chopping up that banana in a place I felt belonged. It was during covid, where I thought enough was enough, and I remembered what those early years at Red Boots taught me. Never give up; you can achieve anything.

I decided to communicate through comedy and laughter rather than feel sorry for myself. I was on holiday and did a joke on stage which the researchers from Britain’s Got Talent got hold of. They kept calling me; I kept ignoring them thinking it was spam. Until one day, they contacted my mom, and we realized it was for real.

I thought about it for a long time, but I wanted to show everyone, those girls that ignored me every day, that teacher who said to me stop eating like a dog, that man in the pub that said, “are you drunk,” the people that stared. I wanted to show them “I’m Eva,” that student from Red Boots. I can achieve anything. I eventually got to the final of BGT, and although I didn’t win, it was a win for me. I, along with all you guys, put disability on the map, and if I can inspire 1 person in life, I have done my job in this world.

People always ask me what was Simon like what was Amand like ? Did you meet them?

Well Yes, and all I can say is that.

Simon was lovely and he smelly absolutely gorgeous.

And Amanda said I had funny bones, not the cleverest it’s the muscles Amanda the muscles.

After BGT, I went on to do a number of gigs, a TV documentary. I’ve got a book out in a few months raising money for the children’s Hospital, but on my heart, the proudest moments I have had is Number 1 performing at Red Boots summer fete and being here speaking with you tonight. As I said, I feel Red Boots is the place that gave me the courage to get on that stage and believe.

I’m now 16, and guess what, I’ve only started my driving lessons. Can you believe it? I mean I can’t even steer my shopping trolley, and they are trusting me behind the wheel. And I know what will happen. The police will be pulling me over and asking me to walk in a straight line. I’ve never walked in a straight line my whole life.

Anyway, I thought I would leave you with a little poem I wrote. It’s Called:

Aspects of Eva.

Eva, the diva.

Eva, school leaver

Eva, the under and over achiever

Eva, with laughter

Eva, with rage

Eva, new chapter

Eva, blank page

Eva, believer – in hope and compassion

Eva, the teacher – the pride and the passion

Eva, the star on the stage she once owned.

Eva, once told that she had ‘Funny Bones’

Eva, the leader – the brave CP warrior,

Eva, the nervous and shy PC worrier

Aspects of Eva,

I’ve witnessed them all.

The highs and the lows,

The rise and the fall

So whichever Eva

You next meet in the street,

Remember the others,

Which make me complete.”

Eva’s story at NICE