Young rower and artist both making waves

Artist Olivia Pilling, left, with Jess Leyden
Artist Olivia Pilling, left, with Jess Leyden

The community in a small hamlet is rallying round to support a teenage sports star as she sets her sights on becoming an Olympian.

Jess Leyden, 18, of Shore, Todmorden, was crowned world junior rowing champion earlier this year and is aiming to follow in the footstaps of another famous Jess - London 2012 Heptathlon champion Jess Ennis - by representing her country at the biggest sporting event in the world.

Jess’ burgeaoning career as a rower involves a lot of travelling and training expenses, and two of her neighbours have stepped in to help towards the cost.

Anne Mountfort, a financial adviser with Camargue Chambers LLP, approached artist Olivia Pilling to ask if she would donate a painting to support Jess’ career.

Olivia agreed and went a step further - creating an original painting of Jess’ training area at Hollingworth Lake.

When Anne showed the painting to the managing partner at her chambers, he immediately bought the painting for £1,000 and has agreed ongoing sponsorship for Jess.

“It’s brilliant,” Jess said.

“I have had so much support from so many people.

“It’s really nice of them and so kind.

“It’s a brilliant painting.

“Thanks to Olivia - she’s such a talented person.”

Olivia, 26, who studied fine art at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Painting the sailing seemed an obvious subject matter for Jess - she is a member at Hollingworth Lake and I really love painting water.

“I’m happy to do what I can to help Jess get to the next stage. She is amazing.

“You don’t expect someone living down your road to be a junior Olympic medal winner.

“I hope she does fabulously well.

“It’s something to be proud of in Todmorden.”

Anne said: “After a period of difficult economic times and bad PR for young people, this has to be a feel-good story for Todmorden and something we can all feel proud of.”

Jess has also received sponsorship from Jaguar Cars.