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Ballymoney
Sunday, June 20, 2021

Ballymoney schools to take part in Northern Ireland’s biggest Christmas Panto
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Thousands of students across Northern Ireland join forces for the Beauty and the Beast digital extravaganza.

Thousands of school pupils from hundreds of schools across Northern Ireland have signed up to take part and ‘virtually attend’ what could be the region’s biggest ever Christmas pantomime this year as part of a timely and social distanced entertainment initiative led by Southern Regional College.

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These including Ballymoney schools such as Bushvalley Primary, Ballymoney Model Integrated Primary School and more.

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With many traditional school Christmas plays paused this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a boldly creative team in performing arts, music, media, art, hair and beauty from Southern Regional College in Armagh have come together to present the College’s first ever online pantomime with an exciting new take on Beauty and the Beast.

The original cast is made up of more than 27 local students from Southern Regional College but video contributions from primary, secondary and special schools right across Northern Ireland are now being included in this special one-off production that will safely unite pupils, staff and parents in a festive online interactive extravaganza.

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Up to 500 primary, secondary and special schools – with more than 20,000 students and staff – have already signed up to safely view the livestreamed production on Thursday 10 December from classrooms and homes across Northern Ireland.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support and interest shown in this new first-time virtual production which we’re delighted to share with so many children in schools, hospitals, hospices and in care settings as part of a special Christmas treat which we hope everyone will enjoy” Teresa McBride, SRC Performing Arts Course Coordinator, said.

“Combining all our talent, skills and training in performing arts, music, media, art, hair and beauty into one dazzling digital production which can be safely shared and enjoyed across Northern Ireland and beyond is a real treat and we’re delighted to be including contributions from schools right across the region which we’ll be showcasing as part of this interactive spectacle.”

Rehearsals for the main elements of the show were carried out observing full safety guidelines at the new and spacious £35 million state-of-the-art Armagh campus which is home to theory and practical-based learning in a range of creative subjects including dance, music, performing arts and photography which are delivered in industry-leading facilities.

Facilitating the production was also a major technical feat which required comprehensive planning and logistics including the extensive use of separate rooms, spaces and timelines for filming to ensure everyone’s safety and full compliance with public health guidelines.

The full cast is made up of Level 3 Performing Arts students and all music used throughout the performance has been originally written and will be performed by Level 3 Music students, with live sound production and filming undertaken by students from the Level 5 HND Music course.

Brian Doran, Chief Executive, Southern Regional College, said: “The determination and innovation shown by students and staff in bringing this production to fruition in such challenging times is an incredible achievement.

“This has been a real team effort using the talents of students and staff from across so many areas of the curriculum including performing arts, hair and beauty, music, art and media. I am so proud of them all in bringing some joy and festive fun to so many students across Northern Ireland and beyond.

“Everyone can expect magic surprises, great laughs and a cast and audience of thousands who can safely enjoy the experience. Everyone’s enthusiasm for this important project and the support of all our collaborators gave us the confidence and determination to find a way to make it possible – I cannot wait to enjoy the show. Given the challenges of this year for everyone, I also can’t think of a more appropriate way to kick off the festive season.”

Southern Regional College is the largest Further and Higher Education College outside of Belfast in Northern Ireland, with six campuses located across the counties of Armagh and Down in the towns of Armagh, Banbridge, Kilkeel, Lurgan, Newry and Portadown.

An award-winning college and a centre of excellence for teaching, learning and business support, it employs more than 900 staff and caters for more than 30,000 students annually across a range of further and higher education courses and apprenticeships. Since 2015, Southern Regional College has invested more than £50 million creating new world class educational campuses in Armagh and Banbridge.

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