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For the very first time a Newry group has made it through to the final stages of this year’s Big Lottery People’s Millions Competition and later this month they will be competing for the winning spot.

Poster Girl and Boy for The Imagine Arts Centre Margaret McArdle and Joseph Alphonsus Morgan from Acting Up.
Poster Girl and Boy Margaret McArdle and Joseph Alphonsus Morgan from Acting Up.

On Tuesday 25th of November Kaleidoscope and their Newry Acting Up group will be on UTV’s Live at Six to appeal for your votes to enable them to get up to £50,000 of National Lottery Funding.

The Big Lottery's People's Millions competition gives the Northern Ireland public the opportunity to vote for the projects they feel deserve Lottery funding. Each year just six projects are selected from thousands of applicants to face the public vote and this year the Newry group have made the final six! 

Kaleidoscope and their Newry Acting Up group are appealing for the public's support to set up The Imagine Arts Centre, Northern Ireland's first ever Arts Centre for Older People. The Centre will be based in Newry and will offer a year round programme of arts classes, events and activities exclusively for older people. 

Kaleidoscope's, Kerry Rooney recently won a Churchill Fellowship and as part of that is presently on a 2 month trip to America, bringing drama to older people there.

He is very excited about this unique opportunity. "It's an incredible achievement for us to make to through to the final six. The Imagine Arts Centre will make a huge difference to the lives of older people not just in Newry but all over Northern Ireland. It will also put Northern Ireland at the forefront of arts and cultural provision for older people in Europe” 

The Newry Project will face the public vote on the 25th of November and members of the public will have from 9am to 12 midnight on that day to cast their vote. The project will be featured on a special UTV Live at Six programme on the day and also in that days Daily Mirror newspaper which will reveal the all important voting telephone number. Calls and texts cost just 15p and the group desperately need your support.

Don't forget to vote for The Imagine Arts Centre on the 25th of November.
Don't forget to vote for The Imagine Arts Centre on the 25th of November.

Kerry, a Newry man has been instrumental behind the bid and is Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope. Speaking about the early days of the project Acting Up member and U3A volunteer Pat Cunningham said “Kerry worked with us and wrote monologues about the whole area of retiring and coming to that third age stage in life. I did one about retirement and the difficulty of a man identifying with his job and suddenly finding he hasn’t got the job anymore and he’s sitting at home doing nothing and wondering what he’s going to do with himself. Mary, my wife wrote one about relationships in retirement where the man is away at work and suddenly now he’s home and under the wife’s feet all the time”

“These were about nine minute dialogues, we thought we couldn’t do this, I could never remember nine minutes of dialogue, but he helped us and he trained us and he took us down to a recording studio and we made recordings of it and they turned out really well.”

From that people from U3a were encouraged to take part and about 20 people came along. “They all came, and you know, I’ve seen a terrific growth in those people in the last two years. Some of them were shy, they couldn’t see themselves as important, now they suddenly find that having an experience of being on a stage, learning lines, doing things on stage, has given them confidence in themselves and they’ve really blossomed as a result of it.”

“I personally never thought that I would be able to go on to a stage and hold an audience in a play or production. It’s nerve wrecking but I managed it. A lot of older people could benefit from our experience.”

“There’s a knack in it, you’re not just dealing with Actors here, you’re dealing with older people who haven’t much confidence, can’t remember their lines too much, take quite a bit of direction, are liable to do the wrong thing and you’re telling them how to cope with making mistakes”

On the importance of their project Pat added “In this decade the percentage of older people is going to increase by ten percent, so we are going to have a huge volume of older people who are retired at 65 maybe earlier, who have got brains and are coming from maybe high powered jobs. These people will be wanting something more to do, they’re retired but there’s still a lot of life in them. I think there’s going to be a big market for a facility that they could come in to. We would bring older people together from across Northern Ireland and cross border and Newry would be the centre of it all.”

Check out more information on their website http://peoplesmillionsfornewry.weebly.com/  

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