Stellar effort from young people with real ‘Star’ quality

YOUTH Action’s Rainbow Factory School of the Performing Arts relaunched its all-ability ‘Star’ project in Banbridge Leisure Centre last week, giving a glimpse into the stellar talent and determination of the young people involved.

The group, which includes young drama enthusiasts with learning difficulties, will bring its latest production, ‘Scarlett Hood and the Desparately Wicked Wolves’ to Banbridge later in the year.

Formed from an amalgamation between the ‘Triton’ and ‘Star’ groups over a year ago, the new all-inclusive drama group represents a vibrant, united voice for young people, according to Joanne Quinn-Kane, workshop production manager.

Speaking just before the launch, at which the young actors gave a short performance taken from their new show, Joanne said the Star group was making huge strides in helping young people find their feet - both on the stage and off.

“We have around 17 young people on our books at the minute and everyone is very excited and working hard on the performance which we hope to stage in the Banbridge area in May,” said Joanne. “I have witnessed at first hand the change in shy young people who start off feeling very unsure of their talents and then blossom into skilled performers oozing with confidence.

“The move to integrate the Triton drama group consisting of young people in mainstream education with the Star group which was primarily for young disabled people and those with learning difficulties has been a fantastic idea.

“For some, being in Star is is just a way of having fun while learning new skills and building confidence, but others have gone on to make careers out of their experience with us, such as Marty McCann who starred in Steven Spielberg’s TV mini series, ‘The Pacific’ and Tom Finlay from Belfast who joined Rainbow Factory as a child and is now its artistic director.

“But it is much more than just acting, as we aim to build up the young participants as whole people - it is very much a holistic approach.”

The young thespians, who meet at Banbridge Leisure Centre every Saturday morning for drama and dance workshops with professional tutors, tackle all areas of the dramatic spectrum - from panto to Shakespeare and ‘issue-based theatre’ in which varous topical issues relevant to teenagers, such as sexual health and drugs, are explored.

Cathy McAdam, community access officer for Children with Disabilities team in the Craigavon and Banbridge area, has been involved with the Star group in Banbridge for three years and has been encouraged by how the young people have progressed under tutor Joanne Conere’s expertise.

“The medium of drama works so well in helping young people who have a disability with their confidence and self-esteem,” she said. “The Star group merging with the mainstream group was very significant as the value of young people who have a disability working together with their mainstream peers cannot be stressed enough.”

Banbridge is the only ‘satellite’ project of the Rainbow Factory and is sponsored by Banbridge District Council, whose chief executive commended its work and encouraged more young people in the area to take part and “grab this unique opportunity”.

“The Rainbow Factory’s Star group is testimony to the fact that non-formal education like this can enable young people to continue to achieve their full potential and often surpass their own expectations,” Mr Hannaway said at the project launch last Tuesday. “There is no reason why young people from all backgrounds and abilities cannot grow, develop, learn and achieve together through this medium.”

New members are always welcome and anyone who would like to find out more is invited to attend an open session at Banbridge Leisure Centre on Saturday (February 19) from 10.30am until 1pm.

Anyone who would like further information can contact Joanne on 028 90 240551.