NI play about teen suicide to be performed in New York

By | General, Newsroom, Theatre

A powerful Northern Ireland play about the devastating impact of teen suicide will have its US premiere at a major theatre festival in New York from January 21-28.

Blinkered, written by Patricia Byrne of Sole Purpose Productions in Derry will be performed at the 1st Irish Festival in New York, a festival showcasing high quality new work.

The production, which examines the impact of mental health and suicide among young people, was first shown in Derry in 2016, touring local schools and later had a very successful seven week tour of theatre venues around Ireland in 2017.

As a result of this success they were invited by the organisers of the 1st Irish Festival to bring the play to New York, performing in the boroughs.

Sole Purpose Productions will be working in partnership with the city’s Department of Education, the New York Irish Centre and Solace House Suicide Prevention Centre.

Patricia explained that they were invited to the festival after speaking to a number of interested organisations in New York in June last year:

“Among the people I met was Jane McCarter, Arts and Cultural Director of the New York Irish Centre, who used to work in The Derry Playhouse. She was interested in showing Blinkered and also with us doing some work around mental health with Solace House Suicide Prevention Centre.

“Solace House, formerly known as Pieta House, was set up in Dublin and established a base in New York two years ago. They do a lot of work around suicide prevention with the Irish Diaspora.”

Blinkered tells the story of Ryan, a young man dealing with feelings of isolation, frustration and loneliness and his overwhelming thoughts of taking his own life. When he is alone in his room he speaks to the audience, delivering a heart-breaking monologue of a young man on the brink.

The play is directed by Shauna Kelpie, and performed by a stellar cast including Patrick McBrearty (Colleen Bawn, Lyric), Cathy Brennan Bradley (Peni’s From Heaven, Supanova Productions), Gemma Walker (The Makeyuppers) and Marty Maguire (Ardnaglass on the Air, C21 Theatre Company).

The Origin Theatre 1st Irish Festival has been going for ten years and features important work by Irish artists North and South. Blinkered will be shown at a number of locations around the city between January 21-29. The project to bring the play to the US is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Professional Arts Abroad Programme and Culture Ireland.

For more information about Sole Purpose Productions visit www.solepurpose.org Information about the Origin Theatre 1st Irish Theatre Festival is on https://www.origintheatre.org/whats-on/1st-irish-festival/

Young disabled ambassadors head to Brussels to promote Northern Ireland

By | Creative Industries, Dance, News, Newsroom

Five young people with learning disabilities headed to Brussels on Friday (January 18) after being selected as Northern Ireland ambassadors in a prestigious EU project co-ordinated by the University of Atypical

The team of five joined their counterparts from Belgium, Croatia, Finland and England in the Yes We Are In project, exploring life, arts and culture in the different countries.

Facilitated by David Calvert, Artistic Director of Kids in Control, the group will explore similarities and differences between their lives in Belfast and those of disabled ambassadors from the other countries. Nigel Lockhart, Nikki McLaughlin, Nicholas Moore, James Morgan and Sean Patterson have been selected to represent Northern Ireland.

The young ambassadors will have the chance to show off their home in June when the entire delegation comes to Belfast to see what life is like here.

Chris Ledger, CEO of University of Atypical said the aim of the project was to build new friendships and grow digital skills while supporting experimentation to devise and co-produce live artistic performances with younger people with learning disabilities.

“We’re excited to be part of a project which provides an opportunity for these talented young people to experience new cultures and grow their appreciation of the arts. It is a great coup for Northern Ireland’s Arts and Disability sector.

The five young ambassadors were seen off by Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey who  said: “It looks like an exciting and fun project and I look forward to seeing the results back in the city and welcoming visitors from the project in June this year. My charter promotes a Belfast for All, a Belfast which is open and accessible, respecting everyone’s rights and encouraging everyone to live the best life possible. “Yes We Are In” is doing exactly that.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “As principal funder of the University of Atypical, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is pleased to see disabled young people from here taking part in this terrific opportunity with their European peers. The University of Atypical carries out tremendous work with disabled people from across the region and we are delighted to see this work recognised with the new source of EU funding. Congratulations!”

For more information about the work of University of Atypical, visit https://universityofatypical.org/

Innovative new interactive medical exhibition zone MED-Lab opens at W5

By | Corporate, General, News, Newsroom

MED-lab, a new interactive medical exhibition zone, has been officially launched at W5 as part of a major multi-million pound refurbishment of Northern Ireland’s world class interactive Science and Discovery centre.

Visitors can step into MED-Lab and explore the medical marvel that is the human body.

MED-Lab takes visitors of all ages on an extraordinary and fun journey of discovery into the human body. Visitors will be able to learn about the amazing systems that keep our bodies alive and working and using advanced imaging technologies, see inside the body.

This exciting new attraction has been developed in association with the Almac Group and funded with support from the Inspiring Science Fund, a collaborative initiative between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Wellcome. It aims to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) knowledge and understanding among the next generation of budding scientists through interactive learning.

MED-Lab looks at what can go wrong with our bodies and enables visitors to get hands on with some intriguing interactive exhibits, learning how the scientists at Almac, discover and create life-saving medicinal drugs.

Eric Porter Chair of the Odyssey Trust said: “Enhancing education and scientific knowledge, MED-Lab is an innovative and intriguing investigation into our most prized possession – our body! We are delighted to unveil the first of eight new innovative zones in W5, which we know will be hugely popular with our visitors.”

Alan Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of the Almac Group said: “It is such a privilege to be partners in such an exciting project. Almac is dedicated to advancing knowledge and interest in STEM subjects and sharing our rich history and work carried out in the drug development cycle for pharmaceutical and biotech sectors globally. We are hoping that through MED-Lab thousands of our young people will be inspired to seek out careers in science and medicine.”

MED-Lab is now open to W5 visitors inviting them on an interactive and fun learning journey through the human body, with some amazing reveals such as a human bone can be four times stronger than concrete and that there are more than 100,000 Kilometres of blood vessels in the human body.

It is phase one of a refurbishment which will maintain W5’s position as a world class science and discover centre attracting tourists and people of all ages from Northern Ireland. The project has been financed by a £4.5m capital investment package, with £3m awarded through the Inspiring Science Fund and a further £1.5m invested by the Odyssey Trust.

To find out more about MED-Lab and W5 visit www.w5online.co.uk

ScreenWorks launched to help young people get into the screen industries

By | Creative Industries, Film, Gaming, News

ScreenWorks, a ground-breaking new partnership between Northern Ireland Screen and Into Film, will give young people aged 16 to 19 who want to pursue a career in the industry the chance to gain hands-on experience with some of the leading experts working across film, TV, animation and games.

This significant pilot project supported by the Department for Communities will give up to 150 participants the chance to explore careers in screen craft by offering work experience placements with award-winning artists and technicians who worked on productions such as Game of Thrones, Krypton, Mrs Wilson, The Hobbit and Fantastic Beasts.

Each participant will learn about a craft or technical role in the industry by taking part in a three to five-day work placement. Among the disciplines being covered are: prosthetics, wigs and hair, make-up, costume, visual and special effects, animation, concept art, set construction and props, sound and coding and interactive media. Queen’s University will also host a three-day Broadcasting and Film Making workshop as part of the ScreenWorks programme. The dates for the Queen’s University workshop will be announced on the Into Film website in due course.

Richard Williams, CEO of Northern Ireland Screen, said: “Skills development is key to the growth of the screen industries in Northern Ireland and we are grateful for the support from the Department for Communities to be able to launch ScreenWorks. Designed to help young people find their way into the industry, we hope that ScreenWorks will provide participants with increased awareness and understanding of the variety of roles available and help them choose education pathways that could help fulfil their ambitions.”

Project co-ordinator Sean Boyle from Into Film said there has never been a better time to seek out a career in the industry.

He said:  “There is a real need to train the next generation of artists and technicians to keep pace with demand for these highly skilled, creative jobs in film, TV, animation and gaming. Many young people, as well as parents and careers advisors, will be unaware of some of the amazing opportunities out there. This is a chance to learn from the best and explore real jobs in a real industry.”

The programme is open to all 16-19 year olds from post-primary schools and colleges of further education. Participants should apply for each placement. For more details and to apply go to: Intofilm.org/screenworks or email screenworks@intofilm.org.