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SPOTLIGHT ON… Griese Youth Theatre

Riverbank Arts Centre has been honoured to work with Griese Youth Theatre in various ways over the years – numerous GYT productions have been seen on the Riverbank Stage, many of their members have taken part in workshops and programmes at Riverbank, and their members are very regular and enthusiastic attenders of our theatre programme. We had great plans to work closely with them last year, which had to be paused due to Covid restrictions.  However we are happy to bring you this blogpost about their work – and huge thanks to Leish Burke for her help in putting it together.

To celebrate their 21st birthday in December, Griese Youth Theatre presented an installation in their Meeting House space in Ballitore. Emily Vaughan conceptualised and created the stone, slate and wire sculptures which occupy the space, representing the rich history of creative energy that GYT has nurtured over the years. Stories were collected and recorded by Dee Burke over a series of interviews with past and present members. You can see the video below, and also read more about this innovative youth theatre company.

History of the company:
Griese Youth Theatre and Children’s Drama began in July 1999 as a weeklong art and drama workshop with a group of 25 young people. It was an initiative of Leish Burke and Jacques Candelay who put a proposal to Kildare County Council Library Services and Action South Kildare. The aim was to provide a complementary learning experience through the medium of drama and art. Following the success of the initial week it was agreed that the work of the drama group should continue. Today the group has over 100 members (aged 6 to 20) divided into Junior Griese and Griese Youth Theatre and offers weekly drama classes.

Over the past 21 years GYT members have participated in various activities including workshops in scriptwriting, art, dance, yoga.  The group takes part in street theatre and performances including the National St. Patrick’s Day Parade with Newbridge-based Artastic. GYT also engages in National programmes such as Youth Theatre Ireland projects (National Festival of Youth Theatre and the Young Critics’ programme) and Youth Leadership and Advocacy projects with National Youth Council of Ireland. GYT have participated in the National Theatre London Connections Programme on numerous occasions with performances taking place at Riverbank Arts Centre and travelling to the Grand Opera House and Lyric Theatre, Belfast.  The group also takes part in important outreach work – they revived the tradition of Hunting the Wren on St Stephen’s Day,  where all proceeds are donated to local charities and younger company members perform at Christmas each year in the children’s ward of Tallaght University Hospital.

The group has also worked successfully with film production and development over the years.  In 2003, GYT produced a ten-minute film All MY LOVE… (funded by KELT) which was developed, storyboarded and filmed by the group themselves under the direction of the Galway Film Centre. A number of film ventures followed, and the group have since produced several short films ‘Thin Air’, ‘Are We Ready’ ‘Where did you come from’ and ‘Snowball’. They also produced the Ballitore Documentary and several of the group travelled to London to edit the short film ‘My Baby Girl’ with the BBC Blast team.

Leish Burke

Speaking of current and future plans, founder Leish Burke says:
‘During the current Covid-19 crisis we are continuing zoom classes and working towards stage productions for the end of June, online, on stage, live streamed, outdoor, it all remains to be seen. We are applying to Erasmus+ for a community ESC project with our 18- to 30-year-old leaders and past members. We continue to collaborate with the Ballitore Young Film Makers.

At GYT we believe immersing young people in the arts allows the young person to see possibilities. Access to art centres and professional theatre training further increases their status. Drama is accessible to all young people and involves them physically, linguistically, emotionally and calls for an immediate imaginative response. In the drama class students collaborate and make decisions and live with the consequences only for the duration of the drama where they are given an opportunity to reflect and evaluate. The skills learned in the drama workshop are life skills.’

Plans for 2021?
‘Once restrictions lift and we are allowed we will be back in an outdoor or indoor space with show dates planned for 22nd to 26th June. In some space real or virtual. Enrolment for New Term and new members takes place on September 7th 2021

Griese Youth Theatre acknowledges the ongoing support of Kildare County Council and Kildare County Council Arts Service. To contact Griese Youth Theatre  – you can email or follow them on Instagram or Facebook

This blogpost is part of our Spotlight On… series, focussing on local partners, organisations and artists during Covid restrictions – See our recent feature on Newbridge Drama Group and Irish Military Festival  and watch out for a Spotlight on.. June Fest soon.