United on stage
In the monthly column about the work of the Department of Education and Children’s Youth Service, head of youth arts Fiona Helleur writes about the recent collaboration with an Irish theatre group that led to a very successful musical production
MEMBERS of the Youth Arts Centre in Douglas and Griese Youth Theatre from Ballitore, County Kildare, in the Republic of Ireland, had never met each other before they were set an unusual task.
At the end of last month, the 54 young people were challenged to put on a full-scale production of Footloose at the Gaiety Theatre within just three weeks - including designing the set, costumes, lighting and, of course, staging the show itself.
The Irish group had never participated in a musical and was challenged to open the second half of the show, learn line dancing and set a full scene to be slotted into the production – all while still in Ireland.
Meanwhile, the Manx cast learned their roles and set the show in anticipation of the Irish visitors’ arrival.
Our young participants proudly showed off the Isle of Man, taking part in Ramsey Rocks and visiting Castletown, Peel, the Sound and as much of the island as possible while rehearsing the show from dawn until dusk. It was no mean feat in seven days.
Saddled with this shared responsibility, the young people of both countries fulfilled the challenge far above expectations.
Sponsored by the European Union’s Youth in Action programme and Ireland’s Leargas, representatives of both groups of young people came together to discuss what they feel is important in their life.
Ballitore is a rural village with a population of around 400 and lies 30 miles from Dublin.
And the Isle of Man is of course, an island.
The young people devised peer-led workshops to investigate their similarities and differences, including stereotypes and isolation.
They talked about their lives, their attitudes, their schools and how much they felt disenfranchised from the rest of the world purely because they are villagers and islanders.
Cultural exchange programmes between young people prove an experience of a lifetime.
The mixing of cultures and backgrounds provides young people with an unforgettable awareness of, and lifelong appreciation for, each other.
Everyone benefits from a new understanding and friendships blossom. There is no better way to learn about another country, its customs and the way of life of its people than by experiencing it first hand.
Young people gain skills they could never learn by staying at home – maturity, self-confidence, communication skills – and learn to become a global citizen and see there is a bigger world out there.
We are already planning a return visit next summer.
Not to do so would incur the wrath of 54 young people who have no intention of ever again responding to accusations of stereotypes or isolation – they now have friends from another world and that is priceless.
For information about the Youth Service visit www2.sch.im/groups/iomyouth/ or call 686057.s
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Weather for Isle of Man
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west