Stage Beyond is ‘Unstoppable’ in new variety show performance, thanks to The National Lottery

7th June, 2023

Stage Beyond, the Derry-based theatre company for adults with learning disabilities, supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, is gearing up to raise the roof with their variety show ‘Unstoppable’ in St Columb’s Hall on Saturday June 24th, 2023 at 7.30pm.

Members of Stage Beyond pictured at rehearsals at St Columb's Hall, Derry-Londonderry.

The multi award-winning ensemble are rising to the challenge yet again in a thrilling theatrical showcase inspired by the popular variety shows which the historic venue was renowned for hosting in the 1960s. St Columb’s Hall attracted high profile performers including Roy Orbison, Ruby Murray, Val Doonican, Joseph Locke, and Frank Carson in its heyday.

Patricia Lavery, Head of Community and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Stage Beyond who provide performance and community-based workshops, giving a voice to the learning-disabled community in the North West. The company brings such vibrant energy, commitment, and creativity to their performances. I am delighted they are performing their aptly titled show ‘Unstoppable’ at the heart of the community in St Columb’s Hall adjacent to the City Walls.

Congratulations to the company once again on their latest rousing production incorporating drama, comedy, music, poetry, monologues, song, and dance whilst also delivering an all-encompassing inclusion message which is always so important in their work. I am sure the variety show will be a real treat for everyone lucky to secure a ticket and I’m looking forward to seeing the full performance on June 24th.”

Bernie Shiels, Chair of Stage Beyond and one of the founding members, said the cast were eagerly looking forward to their eclectic performance which will feature a range of tableau scenes, choreography, and much more.

“We have trained with a brilliant team of leading artists and facilitators over recent months to showcase the creative talents of our members, some of whom have just recently joined the company and will be making their debut in St Columb’s Hall. The cabaret-style seating complete with candle lights will no doubt add an extra wow factor to both the performance space and overall audience experience.”

Centre Stage and Beyond, and the React Review Film Club youth outreach funded by BBC Children in Need, are also taking part in the showcase which includes a rousing repertoire of Shakespearean drama, Seamus Heaney poetry, pop songs, classical and contemporary music, a Whodunnit, dancing queens, and comedy acts.

Dee Conaghan, Artistic Director of Stage Beyond explained:

“Following our acclaimed recent annual production ‘The Great Dictator’, we decided to go for something refreshingly different. Our ongoing aim is to showcase the transformative power of the arts. People with learning disabilities can often suffer from other people’s low expectations right from the moment they are born through to school and social settings. ‘Unstoppable’ is yet another empowering opportunity for Stage Beyond members to counteract those early experiences now best summed up in the well-known refrain, ‘Oh, if you could see me now!’

“Stage Beyond is all about our members participating fully in a cultural context and they loved the idea of a variety show as a platform to shine the spotlight on their own lived experience and emerging talents across a wide range of genres. We are delighted to be working with some of Northern Ireland’s leading artists enabling members to take part in a variety of art forms, learn new skills, and develop their creative talent which will all be showcased in ‘Unstoppable’ on June 24th.”

Often referred to as "the people's hall", St Columb’s Hall was also where Emmeline Pankhurst, who campaigned for women's right to vote, made a keynote speech in 1910. More recently, hit Channel 4 TV series ‘Derry Girls’ filmed some of the most famous scenes from Season 3. The stunning Grade A listed building on Orchard Street is currently undergoing a re-awakening with a major project underway to bring it back to life for the community.

The Stage Beyond team facilitating the upcoming anthemic production ‘Unstoppable’ include Dee Conaghan (Artistic Director), Jean Dunn (Leading Drama Facilitator), Nora Kavanagh (Stage Beyond Letterkenny,) and visiting award-winning artists Ruairi Conaghan (actor/writer/filmmaker); Doreen Curran (mezzo-soprano opera singer); Laurie Schneider (choreographer); Cyril Kelly (filming); Francis O'Hagan (creative writing); Oliver Barron aka Cello Fella (freelance musician/teacher); and Neil Burns (pianist).

The performance takes place in St Columb’s Hall, Derry, on Saturday 24th June 2023 at 7.30pm. Tickets priced £15 are available by emailing

Stage Beyond members, Hollie Hunter and Alison Smyth.
Dee Conaghan, Artistic Director of Stage Beyond with members, Hollie Hunter, Julian McIntyre and Patricia Lavery from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Stage Beyond members, Hollie Hunter, Julian McIntyre and Alison Smyth.