The three Creative Schools Ambassador events were held at the end of March. Belfast Boys’ Model, Blessed Trinity College and Mercy College Belfast met at the Duncairn Arts Centre in North Belfast. Ashfield Girls’ High School and St Vincent’s Centre met at Linenhall Library in Belfast City Centre and St Joseph’s Boys’ High School and St Cecilia’s College met in Derry/Londonderry. The sessions were facilitated by a range of artists: Ayesha Mailey, a dancer with Echo Echo, Shena Kelly, a dancer with Du Dance, DJ Cahir Glen, filmmaker Graham Ginty, singer/songwriter Dan Ferguson and actors Jazzmin McClure, Christina Nelson and Rob Crawford.
The events brought together, for the first time in three years, schools involved in the Creative Schools Partnership Programme – a pioneering cross-government programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through National Lottery funding, the Education Authority and The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative. Eleven schools, located in Urban Villages areas in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, are currently engaged in the programme. Last year they were awarded up to £15,000 each to develop a two-year project that would bring professional artists into the classroom to teach new skills, support educational learning and strengthen community connections.
Marie O’Donoghue, Creative Schools Partnership Programme Manager, commented:
“These workshops were a brilliant opportunity for students to come together to meet and most importantly have some fun together by engaging in arts activities. We were delighted to be able to bring along to each session some of the artists responsible for delivering workshops in schools this year, to give pupils a flavour of the range of projects taking place within the wider programme.”
Reflecting on the benefits for students taking part in the Creative Schools Programme, Tanya Wakeley, Lead Teacher, St Cecilia’s College, said:
“All our pupils have benefitted from this collaborative working process, as they navigated their own mental health journey after the recent pandemic lockdowns. The skills learnt across the last two years have been varied but phenomenal as they are completely transferable, not only across the curriculum, but for the world outside the classroom. Every pupil on the St Cecilia’s Creative Schools project has had the opportunity to improve their confidence, communication, and collaborative skills – learning by stealth is a valuable part of the creative process. Every pupil involved has, in their own words said, ‘my confidence improved because I was able to work with my friends’. This is testament to the whole ethos of the programme.”