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Oh yes, it does: Virtual panto brings cheer as hundreds of Northern Ireland schools involved in online celebration


Performers: students from the SRC Armagh Campus in rehearsals

Performers: students from the SRC Armagh Campus in rehearsals

Performers: students from the SRC Armagh Campus in rehearsals

Thousands of pupils across Northern Ireland took part in what was possibly the largest ever Christmas pantomime in the country.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the festive pantomime has been forced to rethink how it can reach audiences with theatres and schools remaining closed to the general public.

However, in what has been described as a major technical feat, Southern Regional College (SRC) students in Armagh broadcast an online version of the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast on Thursday.

Hundreds of schools across the country took part in the performance and virtually attended to provide a safe and festive celebration for students.

The original cast was made up of more than 27 students but video contributions from primary, secondary and special schools right across Northern Ireland were also included in the special one-off production.

Up to 500 primary, secondary and special schools and more than 20,000 students and staff safely viewed the live streamed panto.

The SRC's Performing Arts Course co-ordinator Teresa McBride said they had been overwhelmed by the support in the first-time virtual production, which was also shared in hospitals, hospices and care settings.

"Combining all our talent, skills and training in performing arts, music, media, art, hair and beauty into one dazzling digital production which can be safely shared and enjoyed across Northern Ireland and beyond was a real treat, and we're delighted to have included contributions from schools right across the region," added Teresa.

Rehearsals for the main elements of the show were carried out observing full safety guidelines at the new and spacious £35m state-of-the-art Armagh campus.

Facilitating the production was also a major challenge which required planning and logistics. That included the extensive use of separate rooms, spaces and timelines for filming to ensure everyone's safety and full compliance with public health guidelines.

The full cast was made up of Level 3 Performing Arts students and all music used throughout the performance was originally written and performed by Level 3 Music students, with live sound production and filming undertaken by students from the Level 5 HND Music course.

Brian Doran, chief executive of the SRC, said: "The determination and innovation shown by students and staff in bringing this production to fruition in such challenging times is an incredible achievement.

"This has been a real team effort using the talents of students and staff from across so many areas of the curriculum including performing arts, hair and beauty, music, art and media.

"I am so proud of them all for bringing some joy and festive fun to so many pupils across Northern Ireland and beyond."

Belfast Telegraph