What is viewed as one of the most successful cross-community initiatives in the 42-year history of Banbridge District Council has ended after five years of entertaining and enlightening children.
The Cross-cultural Music and Dance Programme was launched in Banbridge district in January 2010 and has since been enjoyed by thousands of P6 and P7 pupils at local primary schools.
State and maintained schools host pupils from a partner school and children from both sectors get a chance to mix together as the all-day, interactive workshops are delivered by an international team of professional musicians and dancers.
Children are taken on a musical journey around the world, learning about shared culture at home and abroad.
It’s music with a message, but there is also a fun side, children get to sing and dance, even try out instruments, including the Highland bagpipes, Uilleann pipes, Lambeg drums, bodhrans and African drums.
The ground-breaking initiative was started by the Good Relations Officer at the district council, Dolores Donnelly, a short time after taking up her post in Banbridge.
Mark Wilson Specialist Percussion has delivered the workshops on behalf of the council.
Waringstown man Mark, an internationally-renowned musician and broadcaster, has brought together a talented team including Nikolay and Vessie Ivanov.
It is now hoped the project can be introduced across the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area.
Moyallon Primary School principal John Priestley certainly hopes so.
He said the Cross-cultural Music and Dance Programme has been invaluable in bringing local children together.
He added: “We in Northern Ireland have become a multi-cultural society over the last number of years and it’s vital that children at an early age find out about other cultures.
“We had children from Moyallon, Milltown and St. John’s in Gilford working and playing together at Moyallon in the programme - it’s just lovely to see them interacting, everybody just being themselves and nobody being excluded.”
Another big fan of the programme is Eamonn O’Malley, P7 teacher at St. Francis Primary School, Loughbrickland. He has previously taken centre stage as a dancer on tour across Europe with Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.
But he has enjoyed sitting on the sidelines at the music and dance workshops.
“The programme has been a real asset to the school,” he said.