As Limerick City of Culture 2014 was drawing to a close, the Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock was showcasing the results of its four years of work on Integration through the Arts.
Bringing together practitioners from the Arts and from a broad spectrum of education including primary, secondary and third level, the ‘Integration Through the Arts’ Seminar promoted positive cultural integration amongst children and young people and played host to delegates from all over the country.
Participants travelled to Limerick last month from as far afield as Navan, Wicklow, Meath, Galway and Dublin for a day of workshops, talks and discussion groups at the Lime Tree Theatre on best practice in Arts based Integration work.
‘One Island- Three Communities’
The Friars’ Gate Theatre model uses a drama methodology to encourage Irish and ethnically diverse students to express ideas through speaking, listening and movement skills, learning both curriculum objectives and civic and social competences within a structured, safe environment.
With over 60 teachers, youth workers and youth theatre leaders signing up to take part, the day was a lively mix of presentations, practical workshops and discussion group activities that explored drama as a methodology in integration work. Topics included anti-racism in the secondary classroom led by Friars’ Gate Education and Outreach Director Fiona Quinn, ‘One Island- Three Communities’ with drama-in-education specialist Joanna Parkes and “Integration in Youth Drama Settings’ with Colin Thornton, Social Inclusion Officer at the National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD).
International Youth theatre member, 16 year old Aicha Yabre, told of how she couldn’t speak any English except, “I don’t understand” when she arrived in Ireland but had participated in Integration through the Arts for four years and now had the confidence to address the delegates, perform in plays in Dublin, Kilkee and Limerick including Limerick’s climatic cultural high as she performed with Royal de Luxe in The Giant’s Journey. “I used to be really shy,” she told delegates, “but now I have so many friends in Limerick and from all over the world, places I’d never heard of before!”
The Friars’ Gate Theatre’s Integration Through the Arts project is funded by the European Integration Fund and the Arts office of Limerick City and County Council and in 2014 brought the Arts to over 2,000 Limerick school children through drama workshops in schools and the International Youth Theatre. Teachers warmly praised the initiative saying, “ Really enjoyable and informative. Variety of activities and methodologies excellent for all pupils and abilities. Really captured the pupils attention and engaged them in tasks and the importance of the topics at hand. Pupils talking about it still and want to further their knowledge with some project work. Would highly recommend it to other schools. Facilitators were excellent and so enthusiastic, great with the pupils.”
“I used to be really shy, but now I have so many friends in Limerick and from all over the world, places I’d never heard of before!”
Integration is a two way process and in the same spirit of collaboration the Friars’ Gate Theatre invited the LCETB (Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board) and the National Association for Youth Drama to be project partners in creating a Teacher Resource pack and delivering the seminar and asked the Lime Tree Theatre to house the seminar day, utilising their excellent conference facilities.
Rhona Dunnett, Research and Development Officer at NAYD, commented; “The Lime Tree and Mary Immaculate College was an ideal home for the event given its relationship and commitment to education and the arts,” she said. “The Lime Tree Theatre is a significant addition to the cultural life of Limerick city and we were delighted they were able to host the seminar.”
Such was the success of the day that The Friars’ Gate have now been asked to deliver workshops in schools across the country and to speak at the GUIDE (Galway University Integration through Drama and Education) Symposium on January 31st, 2015 at NUI Galway.
Project director Fiona Quinn said; “It’s wonderful to have our work recognised in this way and our sincere thanks go to the Arts office of Limerick City and County Council who have supported the initiative since its inception in 2011. This year of Culture has really proved the importance of embedding the arts into the social fabric of Limerick to enhance all our lives.”
Schools and youth organisations wishing to avail of free workshops from The Friars’ Gate Education and Outreach Department may contact the theatre on 063 98727.