Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Just a few days of training and they’re ready to rock the gaol

Our House, a theatrical performance, is rehearsed by children from north Belfast communities at the New Lodge Youth Centre

A leading musical theatre company is encouraging young people from north and west Belfast to aim for the stars.

Over the last four days Music Theatre 4 Youth’s (MT4Uth) artistic team from London’s West End have been using their expertise to help children from the Shankill, Ardoyne and New Lodge areas of Belfast perfect songs from the musical Our House.

The Belfast-based arts group is presenting the Gaol House Rocks concert at the former Crumlin Road jail this evening in partnership with New Lodge Arts, as part of its Aim High outreach and development programme.

The young people involved will be taking to the stage after just a few days of training and rehearsals.

The unusual setting was also used last month for the McCracken Summer School music event but tonight the songs of ’80s ska band Madness will fill the venue.

Katrina Newell, head of youth development at New Lodge Arts, said the youths involved were enjoying every moment of their intensive four-day musical theatre training.

“To work with musical theatre professionals over an intensive period is a fantastic opportunity,” Katrina said.

“The young people get so much out of it.

“It helps build self esteem and gives them confidence. It also gives them the opportunity to look at the bigger picture and their own opportunities in life.

“We have done four projects with MT4Uth and a lot of the young people have gone on to do other productions with them.

“This is a first step in the comfort of their own surroundings.”

MT4Uth chief executive Jenny Cooke said its Aim High courses are proving to be extremely beneficial in a number of ways.

“First, I know that working with disadvantaged young people can bring about life changing results,” Jenny said.

“Second, the strength of unsung talent waiting to be channelled is a joyful challenge and engages hard working, dedicated practitioners.

“Finally, the light in the eyes of a young person who has been praised for hard-earned artistic achievement is worth its weight in gold.

“How often do these young people get the chance to be nurtured by professional practitioners and shown how to achieve artistic success and personal pride?” Jenny added.

“MT4Uth is providing that opportunity.”

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