Charmaine Watson makes an unlikely theatrical impresario. At the age of 31, she lives in a modest home in Eynsham, a backwater of Oxfordshire. Yet this year the quietly spoken woman, who has never been abroad, has decided to step into the backstage world of the musicals she has always loved.
Watson's daring move has been made possible by a large lottery win that has given her a new purpose in life. A victim of sustained bullying during her school days, Watson is now using a large chunk of the money she won to finance a rock musical with an anti-bullying message that opens in London next month.
"The songs in this show make you feel you can achieve anything you want to," she said. "I have always been one to go to every show I can and I'm really hoping that this will change some of the lives in the audience. If one child watches it and feels able to tell their parents or teachers about bullying, this will be the best lottery money I could ever have spent."
The show, Stand Tall, is directed by Simon Greiff, who took the hit Queen musical We Will Rock You on tour, while the musical supervisor is Peter White, who directed the orchestra for the anniversary production ofLes Misérables at the Barbican last year.
Like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Stand Tall started as a show for schools, based on the David and Goliath story. "We are living the dream now because of all the interest," said the show's publicist, Michael Dove.
"I approached Charmaine to see if she was interested in investing, partly because she was local to us in Oxfordshire. She really bought into the show when she heard the music and that's why we made her associate producer."
Written by Lee Wyatt-Buchan, Aldie Chalmers and Sandy Chalmers, the musical has already won a Princess Diana anti-bullying award for its message. The author Philip Pullman was one of its early fans and West End producers became interested two years ago.
Watson's decision to invest £20,000 in Stand Tall was due to the bullying she endured at secondary school, an experience that caused her to suffer a complete loss of confidence, she says. "I was just the wrong face in the crowd. I was shy and they made fun of me for living in a council house, for my weight, my height, my hair colour – everything. They picked on me every day for five years and I hated going to school so much that I would make myself physically sick. One day I just ran home crying into my mother's arms and she contacted the school. It took years for me to recover."
Watson's £2.3m lottery win came six years ago when she was struggling to bring up her first child, Ryan, on her own. "My grandad started buying me a lottery ticket every Wednesday after my 16th birthday, but that week he checked the wrong numbers," she said. "On Friday, my phone was ringing from about five in the morning because my grandmother had checked them again. I went round to their house with my son and they held up the numbers to show me."
Watson still feels shocked by her luck. "Even now it hasn't sunk in. I am overwhelmed that I can give my children things I never had. I bought a home for my son and me, and I bought my mother her home too."
Just before her big win, Watson began a relationship with an old friend, Robby, and the couple, now married, have two children together, Georgia and Daniel. She has recently trained as a florist and hopes to open a shop in the area.
"I spoke to my bank manager about investing in Stand Tall and he explained the risks, but I decided to take it into my own hands," she said.
Watson plans to attend the premiere at a south London theatre next month. But if the show goes on to tour abroad, like We Will Rock You orLes Misérables, she will have to get her first passport.