Fiona Quinn

Director of Education and Outreach celebrating the launch of Youth Theatre Ireland at Friars' Gate Theatre

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

Fiona Quinn

Youth Theatre Ireland[s Director of Education and Outreach Fiona Quinn

Both my parents were born and raised in Kilfrush, in East Limerick, but emigrated to find work in London, where my sisters and I went to school.

We always considered Limerick to be our home and even returned here as teenagers. After attending Trinity College I studied for a BA (Hons) in Drama and English, before starting out as an actor and then moving into theatre in education, (later directing and scriptwriting). From there, it was a short step to facilitation and bringing all my production skills together in Participative Arts projects, including fundraising.

As part of my degree I took a theatre in education module in Arbour Hill Prison for five months.

The placement challenged my perceptions of community drama. I even had my 21st Birthday whilst there and the guys surprised me with gifts that they had made in woodwork and a cake baked by themselves. I was so proud for them when they went on stage, in front of the entire prison community, and received a standing ovation from their peers. This experience allowed me to witness, first hand, the transformative power of Community Arts and gave me the passion to continue collaborative work in my professional life.

Friars’ Gate Theatre has an excellent Education and Outreach Department.

We are delighted to be an example of best practice in The National Youth Council of Ireland’s toolkit entitled: ‘8 Steps to Inclusive Youth Work’. Over the past ten years we have worked with thousands of people of all ages, from all over Co Limerick. The underpinning ideology is that participation in the Arts benefits the whole community and builds social capital far beyond the actual project. It increases educational capacity, builds friendships and social bonds, empowers individuals, creates social cohesion and enhances integration.

Our work is fully inclusive, delivering projects with the actively retired, people with intellectual and physical disabilities, migrants, and young people, from all social and ethnic backgrounds.

The key to creating a dynamic group is to facilitate the participants' ownership of their projects, so that people can share stories and ideas while deciding on how they want to develop them. We create an atmosphere where everyone is valued and has an opportunity for equal outcomes. The objective is to create work of a high artistic calibre, exploring different ways of performing and learning about stagecraft, with a wide variety of theatrical techniques. Indeed, the Arts Council’s new Framework for Collaboration specifically pledges itself to work to create great artistic experiences for everyone.

Erasmus+ projects funded by the European Commission allow participants to work, train, and perform, with their EU peers.

Young people are funded to travel abroad and participate in Arts projects on the continent. These are always great fun. Living and working with other people can be challenging but when you are all doing something you love, and working together towards a common goal, it bonds participants, even across language barriers. In fact, there are always tears shed on the last day as new friends have to part and return to their home countries. One of the benefits of collaboration is that it shows people, from different traditions, the power of difference, whilst encouraging new ways of doing things. The skills learned are, then, directly translated into projects at home. One of the most powerful examples of this is Co Limerick Youth Theatre’s current European project called: ‘Acting Out 100’. This is a two year collaboration with Loimaa teatteri in Finland who are celebrating the centenary of their republic this year.

As Education and Outreach officer I am always meeting people, hearing stories, devising ways to include ideas, and events, into projects, and sharing the power of the Arts, with communities.

It is truly wonderful to see a project come to fruition and hear how it has positively changed people’s lives. Having an Education and Outreach Officer is important at Friars’ Gate so that people in rural Co Limerick can have access to high quality arts provision. In the case of the European Integration Funding Project, ‘Shoulder to Shoulder: Integration through the Arts’. Not only did we work with 3,229 participants but we, also, hosted a seminar in Mary I which was attended by artists, youth workers, and teachers, from across the country. The Friars' Gate project was selected to participate in a supplementary report: ‘Improving Outcome Measurement: Lessons from implementing a Logic Model approach to measuring outcomes’, available on the Pobal website. It provides an insight into the particular challenges and learning gained while concluding with recommendations for anyone supporting or implementing a similar approach. The recent Arts Council ‘Places Matter’ Conference, at Dublin Castle, discussed exactly this difficulty, of how to measure soft outcomes from Arts projects, when most funders are looking for a metric approach. After 37 years, the National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD), will be re-launched as Youth Theatre Ireland, in mid-February. Co Limerick Youth Theatre was set-up by the Co Arts Office twenty years ago to allow young people, in rural Co Limerick, to be able to access theatre and film facilitation. It is a separate organisation from Limerick Youth Theatre who are based in the city. The county youth theatre has had several bases throughout its lifetime including: The Honey Fitz Theatre in Lough Gur, Glórach in Abbeyfeale, Cappamore, Banogue and Manister! Co Limerick Youth Theatre based at Friars’ Gate Theatre, Kilmallock, is marking the launch of Youth Theatre Ireland (formally NAYD) by having a celebration of film evening. Showcasing films that they have made since 2009, it will be followed by a Q&A on February 14 (5pm - 6.15pm). Admission is free.

For booking information please phone: 063 98727 / 086 8246915 or visit the website: www.friarsgate.ie