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Brave Highbury teenager reaches talent contest finals months after spine operation

Singer and songwriter Charlie Raphael Campbell with her guitar Singer and songwriter Charlie Raphael Campbell with her guitar

Friday, March 21, 2014
3:02 PM

A rock music-loving teenager has defied the odds to win a place representing the borough in a talent contest just months after undergoing life-changing spinal surgery.

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Charlie Raphael-Campbell, 14, of Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury, auditioned for the XLP London competition three months after a gruelling six-hour operation to correct curvature of the spine.

Having made it through a series of heats while wearing a body brace needed for her recovery, the determined singer-songwriter beat off the competition and sailed through to the finals of the contest earlier this month.

The third-generation Islington resident will in July perform a rockier version of the My Chemical Romance hit she sang to wow judges in an earlier round.

Charlie’s life was “turned upside down” when she was diagnosed with scoliosis in October 2012.

Her condition was so severe that within 12 months her spine had a 60 degree curve and it was impacting on her breathing and voice.

She said: “Scoliosis really affected my singing; when it first started I couldn’t hold notes for very long or sing very loud as my lungs were being impeded.

“Now I’ve had the operation I can hold notes for much longer and sing way more powerfully.”

Charlie’s father, Renny Raphael-Campbell, 45, expressed pride at his daughter’s resilience.

He said: “As parents we were completely scared but she’s not complained. The only tears she’s shed have been of frustration. She’s just been amazing.

“For us Charlie is already a winner so no matter what happens next, she’s our inspiration.”

She was moved to take up the guitar having been raised on a diet of punk and indie by her father.

She said: “I listened to Oasis a lot because my dad brought me up on them. I really wanted to learn guitar so I could play Wonderwall.

“I’ve always wanted to be in a band since I was about three. I want it to be a rock band because people always see men as the dominant species in rock.”

Charlie is also keen to use her talents to help raise awareness of her condition and is in talks with Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK) about the possibility of teaming up to release a track on iTunes.

She said: “I want to release the first song I ever recorded to make some money for SAUK.

“I want to raise awareness about the condition as it’s quite common but no-one knows about it. Before I told my class I have it, none of them knew what it was.”

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