Collaboration key to success of integration project for Friars’ Gate

Joanna Parkes of Friars' Gate, Margaret O'Keeffe, Mary Immaculate College, Michelle Carew, NAYD, Fiona Quinn, Friars Gate and Rhona Dunnett, NAYD, at the recent seminar
AS City of Culture drew to a close, Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock was showcasing the results of its four years of work on Integration through the Arts at a seminar in the Lime Tree.

AS City of Culture drew to a close, Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock was showcasing the results of its four years of work on Integration through the Arts at a seminar in the Lime Tree.

The event brought together practitioners from the arts and from a broad spectrum of education, promoting positive cultural integration amongst children and young people and playing host to delegates from all over the country.

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.

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 competencies within a structured, safe environment.

The Friars’ Gate project is funded by the European Integration Fund and the Arts office of Limerick City and County Council and last year worked with over 2,000 Limerick school children through drama workshops in schools and the youth theatre.

Youth theatre member, 16 year old Aicha Yabre, explained that her participation in the project had helped her language skills and confidence and now had the confidence to address the delegates, perform in plays and even with Royal de Luxe on 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!”

Integration is a two way process and in the same spirit of collaboration the Friars’ Gate Theatre invited the 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 to house the seminar event, utilising their excellent conference facilities.

Friars’ Gate have now been asked to deliver workshops in schools across the country and to speak at a symposium in Galway in January.

“It’s wonderful to have our work recognised in this way,” said Fiona. “This year of Culture has really proved the importance of embedding the arts into the social fabric of Limerick to enhance all our lives.”