Norfolk pianist in the pink for gala

A disability has not stopped 21 year old Edward Bates from fulfilling his dream to become a pianist. In fact he is about to take to the stage in Norwich. Emma Harrowing reports.

Music is so important to 21-year-old Edward Bates that it has become part of his senses.

Born blind, Edward's world isn't dark and haunting as many of us with the gift of sight envisage it to be. In fact having had no visual reality, this 'darkness' is life according to him and despite only being in his early 20s it is a life well-lived so far.

'I started playing the piano when I was four years old before I had even begun school,' says Edward. 'We have a piano in our house and I just started to play one day.

'When I started school I had lessons and as I learnt to play properly I found that the sound gave me the ability to develop a sense of sight through music. It seems an unusual thing to say but music adds colour to my life and helps me 'see' the world even though I have never known what this world actually looks like.'

Edward's thoughts on how music brings a sense of reality to his life are similar to that of famous blind musicians such as Stevie Wonder who was also born blind but found a visual sense of life through singing, songwriting and playing the piano.

To say that Edward, from Winterton-on-Sea, could follow in the footsteps of a 22-times Grammy Award winner sounds unlikely but not impossible – especially as his piano playing has already raised a few eyebrows.

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'When I was at Flegg High School I was taught by Sarah Mintey, who is now the principal of the Open Trust in Norwich, explains Edward.

'I remember that she would always get me to play in assemblies.

'I was invited to play at a young person's gig event at Open in May this year and I bumped into Sarah Mintey again.

'She told me about an event being held at the venue in October and how young people would be putting on a show to entertain a room full of guests to raise money for charity and asked if I would play on the night. I didn't hesitate to say yes – I'm never one to turn down an opportunity!'

The event is the Think Pink gala dinner, a charity event which raises money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Target Ovarian.

The event has a London West End theme so guests will not only be wined and dined they will be entertained with a full line-up of dancers and talented musicians.

Rising young stars are at the core of the entertainment. Young people from Open will perform dance routines and showcase the screening of a film produced by a group of youngsters from Norwich to show where the money raised at the event will go.

'To be a part of this show and to be given the opportunity to play at this event is humbling,' says Edward. 'There will also be some professional performers playing on the night. I just hope that everything goes all right with my contribution to the evening.'

Edward will be playing a jazz set of between eight and 10 pieces and although he is still coming up with his definitive playlist he hints that music from Louis Armstrong to the more contemporary jazz of Jamie Cullum will be part of his act.

'I've only just got into jazz,' says Edward. 'I've always played classical but when I was studying for a music degree at City College Norwich last year I helped out a friend who wanted to sing jazz for her final piece of work.

'I was part of her jazz band. It was difficult to play a whole new style of music at first and I had to start at the very beginning and re-learn the basics of music. I think I have mastered it now!

'I tend to stick to modern jazz and I'm really enjoying the new sensation of music – I hope other people enjoy it too. For me it music is like someone has turned on a light and I can see.'

The Think Pink Gala dinner takes place on October 6 at Open in Norwich. All proceeds will go to charities Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Target Ovarian. Tickets to the event had sold out but Think Pink has just released further tickets so there are two more tables available.

Tickets cost �65 per person and tables are for eight people. To buy the few remaining tickets or to make a donation telephone Sara Softly on 01362 857191 or email

For more information about Think Pink visit