General, Funding, Partnerships

North Belfast residents step out together for intergenerational dance project

3rd May, 2024

An intergenerational arts project in North Belfast is bringing residents together one step at a time, united by their community and inspired by their common love of dance.

The project, supported by the Creative Schools Partnership Programme, has seen older people from Newington Day Centre come together with a young group of year 10 students from Blessed Trinity College in North Belfast for a series of weekly dance classes.

An image of a young boy dancing animatedly with an older woman
Students from Blessed Trinity College have been taking part in a special dance and photography project with Newington Day Centre

The sessions have been facilitated by professional dancers and choreographers from Belfast-based arts company DU Dance (NI). The workshops have been created especially for the group, drawing in different musical styles and informed by the things they have in common, including local landmarks and shared cultural connections.

The project is part of the Creative Schools Partnership Programme and Blessed Trinity were one of eleven schools in 2023 to receive funding to support a two-year arts based project. Funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative and delivered by the Education Authority, the unique programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning, including better reading, writing and communications skills.

Sheena Kelly, Community Engagement Artist, DU Dance (NI), said: 

“We are delighted to be working with Newington Day Centre and Blessed Trinity College for the second year in a row on their project ‘The Story of who we are’, which explores the voices and faces of North Belfast and the influence they have on who we are. Each week the participants have been devising short dance pieces based upon discussions around important life moments, significant places in the area they grew up and the people who have influenced their lives. There has been much laughter and plenty of chatter as friendships develop each week between the generations, forging stronger community connections and better awareness of some of the issues each generation faces.”

Marie O’Donoghue, Creative Schools Partnership Programme Manager, commented: 

“This special partnership between Blessed Trinity College and Newington day centre is a wonderful testament to how creativity and the power of dance can connect and have such a positive impact on a community. The relationships that have grown and developed through this creative adventure have brought about a great feeling of unity and joy for one another. These young people are not just learning new skills but have benefited from slowing down, listening and learning from their older counterparts in their own community. The older generation too have been very vocal in their support and appreciation of the young and taken great delight in their company every week.”

While the first part of the project is over, the group has now moved on to the second phase of their plans, which will see Newington Day Centre and Blessed Trinity work with a professional photographer to learn about cameras and the art of portraiture. The first year of the project is due to conclude in June, with a photography exhibition showcasing their work and a dance performance.

Art teacher Gilah McCarroll, who is leading the Creative Schools project at Blessed Trinity, said the programme is proving hugely valuable for all the students taking part: 

The Creative Schools Programme offers our students an opportunity to make meaningful connections with professional artists and with their local community, through the arts. The creative learning process is hugely valuable, as it allows students to grow in confidence, and to hone and develop important soft skills. Overall, creative learning fuels the flame of aspiration, by igniting students’ curiosity, imagination and self-belief.”

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: 

“The Creative Schools Partnership has already seen over 2,000 young people from schools in Urban Villages areas benefit from this pioneering cross-government programme, supporting learning and educational outcomes. It is a great example of how partnership working can make a positive difference to communities. Congratulations to all the participants from Blessed Trinity and from Newington for their work on this fantastic project and thank you to all the young people for the contribution they are making as ambassadors.”

Deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly said: 

“The Executive Office is delighted to be able to support this project through the Creative Schools Partnership Programme. Involvement in the creative arts has had a positive impact on the self-esteem and self-confidence of the students involved, helping to improve mental health and wellbeing. Through their partnership with the residents of Newington Day Centre, these young people are actively making, and sustaining, connections across North Belfast, which is at the heart of building good relations.”

For more information on the Creative Schools Partnership visit: Creative Schools Partnership | Arts Council NI (


A very special dance and photography project has been happening in North Belfast with secondary school students and older people in the community.

  • Image of participants and funders smiling at the camera