It helped launch the careers of actresses Niamh Perry and Jayne Wisener and now a Belfast-based youth theatre group has scooped a top UK award.
Music Theatre 4 Youth (MT4UTH) was one of two Northern Ireland organisations which was honoured at this year’s UK Social Enterprise Awards. The performing arts education charity, based in Belfast city centre, won an award for Best Youth Led Social Enterprise.
Meanwhile, East Belfast Mission was also celebrating at the gala ceremony at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London when it was named UK Social Enterprise of the Year. It won the award for its work providing jobs and community services for Skainos, a social economy village in the Ballymacarrett area.
MT4Uth was singled out by the judges for providing young people from all backgrounds with access to top quality musical theatre training. Since 2005 it has engaged around 2,000 young people, with all profits being reinvested into the business.
Among its alumni are West End star Perry and Wisener, who starred alongside Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd.
Jenny Cooke, MT4Uth chief executive, said by winning a national award, the charity has put to rest the perception it is only about those who can afford to pay. “The charity strives to be open and accessible to all and over 25% of our members are on full bursary support throughout the year,” Ms Cooke added.
“The aim is to offer our young people from all backgrounds interested in working in the performing arts industry opportunities to get training from internationally acclaimed professionals working across Europe without having to leave the province.”
Anne Walsh, East Belfast Mission’s director of business development, said its award was recognition of the work it does providing services to some of the most vulnerable members of the community.
“East Belfast Mission is delighted to receive this accolade,” she said. “The awards recognise the value social enterprises such as ours create for the economy and the communities they serve.”