Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Dancers step out for Best tribute

Scores of schoolchildren are heading to Manchester today to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Northern Ireland's favourite footballing son.

SCORES of schoolchildren are heading to Manchester today to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Northern Ireland's favourite footballing son.

Manchester United star winger George Best lost his life to alcoholism on November 25, 2005, aged 59, after what proved to be one of the most glittering careers in world football.

Now, two years after his death - and on the date of his funeral - 58 students from Belfast high schools are set to follow in his footsteps - but as twinkle-toed dancers, not footballers.

They will be accompanied by the east Belfast football legend's sister, Barbara McNarry, and her husband, Norman - co-founders of the sports star's charity, The George Best Foundation.

The trip is an integral part of a project that is a groundbreaking move in Gifted and Talented Education in Northern Ireland, whose aim is to recognise and support students to excel academically, in sport or in the arts.

The Belfast Education and Library Board commissioned Manchester-based Pro-Excel to coordinate and deliver the project which saw over 300 students from 10 Belfast High Schools audition for 58 places.

David Ryan, of BELB, said when he saw the work of Pro-Excel at a conference in London he had a vision of what a commemorative project could do for young people in Belfast.

"This is a genuine opportunity for our young people of Belfast to set aside the many differences which divide them and unite to celebrate one of the city's most famous sons," he said.

FlyBe was also contacted and asked to provide its George Best branded aircraft to transport the performers to Manchester.

Poignantly, the show will be performed on a specially erected stage at The Trafford Centre today - two years to the day since George's funeral.

Speaking ahead of the event, Barbara McNarry said: "The day in Manchester will be one never to be forgotten for the students.

"I have been very moved by the many projects which I have seen since George died, but what these very talented young people have done in George's memory is outstanding."

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