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Source: © James Nesbitt
With a headmaster for a father, and three teaching sisters in his family, it comes as no surprise that James Nesbitt is passionate about education. The funding of education is of particular concern to him, which he expressed when accepting the Chancellorship of the University of Ulster, in 2010. This, together with continued cuts for ‘the arts’ in general, limiting future opportunities and access for children, has motivated James to join forces with local drama school, Bright Young Things (BYT), in an attempt to buck the downward trend.
Together, James Nesbitt and ‘Bright Young Things’ have launched a scholarship programme for children, whose circumstances might otherwise deny them access to private drama and confidence building classes; arguably, those who might need it most.
BYT Patron, James, has reiterated his belief in the importance of the arts, for all young people, by supporting a full year’s membership to BYT for two lucky youngsters, aged 3 to 18, from across Northern Ireland; one in BYT Magherafelt and one in BYT Belfast. Their time at BYT will be mentored by founder and director, Lisa Duffy, and their progress followed by James Nesbitt, himself.
James said: "It gives me great pleasure to support the BYT scholarship programme. Drama and performing arts training, from an early age, can be key in developing personality, social skills, confidence, and of course, it is also a great way of nurturing a natural talent, who may not have had the opportunity, otherwise."
Lisa, a professional actor, qualified teacher and performing arts lecturer, added: “The arts provide skills not just for the stage, but more importantly they equip young people with skills for school, for home and for life. And there is a growing lack of arts in our schools’ curricula, so it is vital that we encourage it out of home and school.”
She continued, “Through games, improvisation, storytelling, music, movement, team-building activities, performance and more, our courses at BYT ignite curiosity and encourage self-belief in each and every one of our 3 to 18 year-old members; and we have an outrageous amount of fun doing it!”
Applications for the scholarship are available from the BYT website. Young people, aged between 3 and 18, can enter themselves, or parents can enter on behalf of their child, depending on age and ability.
Lisa explained: “This is the first time that Jimmy and BYT have offered to support and fund two members, for a whole year of award-winning drama training and confidence building, at both BYT schools. We expect a huge response to Jimmy’s Scholarship and want to ensure that the most deserving young people are awarded this opportunity. Therefore, highest priority will be given to applicants who currently have financial barriers to attending a class like BYT.”
In an attempt to open up kids’ creative sides, BYT are encouraging video entries, which are not only loads of fun for them to make, on their phones, but also offer a great way for BYT to see a creative sparkle, which they can help develop.
“Entrants can let their imaginations go wild, with the 30 second clip. We’re hoping some of them perform a funny poem, or show us their best impression; pull some of their wackiest facial expressions or recreate a scene from a favourite book with puppets” Lisa added. “They could make a crazy costume, shoot a documentary of their favourite place, show off a favourite party trick, or just tell us a wee story! Most importantly we just want to see sparks of personality and lots of fun, while they’re doing it!”
But while Lisa is all about fun for the kids, she’s very aware of a serious issue. There are children, across Northern Ireland, in real need of a boost in confidence and self-esteem. “We know there are children who are naturally creative, but have nowhere to explore this talent. With this scholarship, we want to open up the opportunities and invaluable benefits that drama can bring to children, who currently face barriers to joining a class or school.”
It should be obvious that this kind of training, provided by ‘Bright Young Things’, and laudably supported by James Nesbitt, provides far more than an education, geared to a career in entertainment. Self-confidence and the ability to communicate effectively are invaluable tools, irrespective of the careers these children ultimately choose.
Wish I was ten.