A £20,000 appeal to raise funds to create a home for performing arts for Wirral Autistic Society has received star studded support.

It was officially launched on Friday night at the Queens Royal Hotel in New Brighton.

The project has already attracted backing from high profile names like Willy Russell, Glenda Jackson and Gerry Marsden.

And among the guests at the launch night were actors Robert Powell and Dean Sullivan, Mike McCartney and Pauline Daniels.

The Wirral Autistic Society cares for autism sufferers beyond school age.

It has been operating for more than 40 years and forms a significant part of the Wirral economy, employing more than 500 people.

The society’s fund-raiser, Rick Myers, said: ‘It has become clear over the years that many people with autism have great talents in the fields of performing arts, compensating in some small way for the problems they face in everyday life.

“An example of this is the band, The Beathovens, made up of Wirral Autistic Society residents who beat off the best of hundreds of other Merseyside others in a battle of the bands competition. They went on to back, among others, Jools Holland at the Savoy Theatre, London, and Bob Geldof.

“However all of our clients benefit from participating in the performing arts, particularly music, dance and drama. The therapeutic value of these activities is considerable.”

AJ Cool, songwriter and the Beathovens’ front man, said: “Music lets me be who I want to be. Having autism makes you not able to do some things but in the Beathovens we are saying we are here, this is who we are. I have lots of friends and it is fun. I have never been part of anything until now.”

The band’s drummer, 37-year-old Clayton Thorpe, is the son of Tony Thorpe of the seventies hit band The Rubettes who said: “Music means everything to Clayton. It has been his outlet all his life. I can honestly say he’s the best drummer I’ve ever played with. We’ve already raised some money for the appeal and profits from a new album will be going to it.”

Daily classes in the performing arts are held at the society’s Bromborough Pool base but there is an urgent need for new equipment to allow the activities to improve and expand.

Students from LIPA, Paul McCartney’s ‘Fame School’ are already supporting the performing arts projects.