Autistic street performer aims to wow Richard Branson in bid for share of £1m entrepreneur prize

An autistic street performer is hoping to catch Richard Branson’s eye with an ambitious plan to start a community arts project in south west London.

Pianist Steen Mottley, performing under the moniker Modern Day Jester, wants to set up monthly workshops that will help autistic children channel their creativity in a positive way.

He entered Virgin Media’s Voom competition, which sees budding entrepreneurs compete over 14 weeks for a share of a £1 million prize to fund the project.

The 32-year-old found music to be a source of comfort when he was diagnosed as an adult with Asperger Syndrome level 1 and said his experience is proof that his plan will work.

“I love having this element of autism but it does have its downfalls sometimes, I feel so free and yet so lost a lot of the time,” he said.

“Music helped me find out who I am and what I am passionate about, and thank god I did because otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now.”

He is now fifth in the rankings after touring south west London to drum up support this week.

If successful Steen will use £75,000 to rent a building big enough for 20 children and buy musical instruments and DJ equipment which he believes will help them channel their gifts in the right way.

Steen said: “The reaction has been great. Most people are really taking a liking to what I’m trying to do because they realise it’s not just about me – this is a massive project that can help so many people.

“Teachers don’t really know how to work with autistic children and I believe with my conditions and my experiences I can really help kids develop their skills and use that amazing, genius side of their brains in the right way.”

Modern Day Jester
TICKLING THE IVORIES: Modern Day Jester showing his skills

Steen channelled his passion for music into a successful career as a street performer and part of his Voom pitch is to build a fully-equipped studio to further his ambitions.

“I love music. I want to reach out to as many people as I can through my street performing,” he said.

“I’ve been doing this for nearly seven years so I must be doing something right.”

He also wants to create a website to share music and sell merchandise, as well as organising an arts festival, dubbed Jesterval, and plans to plough the profits back into the community with 30% going to charities.

While Steen accepts that he may not win Voom’s grand prize, he is determined to make the project a reality sooner rather than later.

“Regardless of whether or not I get the funding, this is going to work,” he said.

“I know this can work and I believe I’m going to change the world for the better.”

Featured image courtey of the BBC via YouTube, with thanks

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