Belfast Telegraph

Thomas Devlin Awards: Talented dancer off to pursue her dream in United States thanks to bursary set up in memory of murdered teen

By Amanda Ferguson

Dreams are coming true for a young Co Armagh dancer thanks to a bursary set up in memory of murdered Belfast schoolboy Thomas Devlin.

The bright Belfast Royal Academy pupil and tenor horn player was just 15 when he was stabbed to death close to his home in the north of the city in 2005.

Two men were later jailed for life for his murder.

Following his mindless killing, the Thomas Devlin Fund was set up to support other creative young people and this year, 18-year-old Craigavon woman Kirsty Louise Brankin is off to the Los Angeles International Dance Academy thanks to a bursary award of £2,250.

Kirsty, who has been dancing since age five, will pick up her Performing Arts award along with four other worthy recipients, during an event at the Mac this evening.

"Thanks to this bursary, I'm able to benefit from expert tuition and develop my dancing skills – the Thomas Devlin Award is making my dreams come true," she said.

Each year, the Thomas Devlin Awards, managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, celebrate and support young local talent in the arts and music.

This year, the awards focused solely on performing arts, and five young people are being recognised for their achievements and dedication to the arts.

On top of Kirsty's award, Kyle Bonnes from Ballymena Academy Grammar School received £1,750 towards the cost of a place on a Youth Music Theatre UK production, which will be performed in London in August.

Holly McConville, from Lismore Comprehensive School, was awarded £1,750 towards taking part in The Ragged Child production with the National Youth Music Theatre in London.

Corragh-May White, from Our Lady's Grammar School, Newry, received £470 towards the cost of attending the Youth Music Theatre Skills course in July, while Sarah King, from Assumption Grammar School in Newry was awarded £400 for practitioner support to create an educational drama piece around bullying, which she will direct.

A statement from Thomas's parents said: "Music and the arts form an important part of the lives of many young people and are often used by them as a means of expression.

"We, together with all those who have assisted the Thomas Devlin Fund, are proud to be able to support the development of talented young people in Northern Ireland by providing financial support to them."

Eamon Donaghy, fund development manager at the Community Foundation, added: "As it approaches its 10th year, we are delighted to see the difference the Thomas Devlin Fund is making in young people's lives year after year. The Community Foundation is proud to work alongside the Thomas Devlin Fund in helping young people pursue their passions in the arts."

Background

On August 10, 2005, Thomas Devlin was murdered in an unprovoked attack 200 metres from his north Belfast home as he was returning from buying sweets with friends. His family wanted his death to be a catalyst for young people to acknowledge and appreciate the futility of gratuitous violence, as well as furthering their development in the arts, one of Thomas's interests. Thus a bursary fund was set up in his name and is managed by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. More than £50,000 has been awarded to people aged 15-19 to develop their skills in the arts.

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