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04 Jul 2022

Former St Pat's pupil praises teachers as she gears up for summer school

Gemma McMeel says the school gave her a platform for success in the arts.

Former St Pat's pupil praises teachers as she gears up for summer school

Gemma McMeel.

A former student of St Patrick's College, Maghera has heaped praise on the school's teachers as she prepares to travel home from Dubai to hold an annual performing arts summer camp.

Gemma McMeel, from Moneyglass, County Antrim, has been working in both Dubai and London since the arts scene began to re-energise after the Covid-19 pandemic.

She will be returning home for the summer to host her Creative Courage Factory summer camp in July, having been working on a similar project in Dubai.

“I ended up in Dubai as a result of the pandemic. I'd been here previously while I was working in London; I'd been flown out to do a couple of projects,” she told the County Derry Post.

“The arts scene here is definitely growing. I work for private performing arts schools out here and am also working with a lot of schools.

“They really want to boost the arts because they see what it does to help the students in communication, their confidence, and things like that.

“It's good that I can do what I was doing at home and also take it to Dubai. The kids all respond to it – albeit in different ways – and it's very useful for them out here.”

Gemma (right) at the launch of Arts Ed, Dubai, in 2019.

Bringing her project to children in the area where she grew up is hugely important to Gemma, who helped launch Arts Ed in Dubai back in 2019.

“I saw the benefit of what it was doing for students in Dubai and London and I wanted to bring that same opportunity back home,” she said.

“I'm a very strong believer in the phrase 'without roots, you can't grow'. If I'm going to do anything back home, I'll do it at home home, especially in that area.

“The kids at home are super talented, but sometimes the arts scene isn't as developed at home and I wanted to give that offering there as well.

“It is developing life skills, communication, confidence, team working, problem solving, all through performing arts education.”

With former St Patrick's College students Brooke Scullion and Gemma Bradley both making their way in the arts industry, Gemma says the emerging talent is testament to the work being done at the school.

“It's lovely when you can rhyme those names off, it's actually really nice. I would say the fundamental aspect of St Pat's is actually the teachers; how much they care,” she said.

“That stability and being able to rely on the fact my teachers believed in me and I could almost do whatever I wanted; it only takes one person to believe in you.

“If I can create that platform for the kids that I'm coming back to Moneyglass for, that platform was created for me in St Pat's.

“It gave me confidence to go into auditions and believe I could do it, because I had the support network and the training behind me at that age.

“The music department at that time went over and above for me and gave me that fundamental root to help me grow.”

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Gemma says the need for communication skills has never been sharper.

“It's important young people today, especially post-Covid, are able to lift their heads off their screens and communicate, talk,” she said.

“The younger generation have maybe missed out on their first years of school and it's important they don't lose the fundamentals they've learned in those first few years in school.

“Being able to talk in a group, stand up and say their name or a poem, or if they want to sing or like to dance, they need to use their creativity because it's limitless at that age.

“You have to make up for that time; children need their imaginations to be stretched, and they aren't always stretched on an iPad or a phone.”

The Creative Courage Factory summer camp will take place from Monday July 4 to Friday July 8, with ages 4-7 at 9.30-11.45am and ages 8-13 at 12.00pm-2.15pm.

The camp takes place at Roguery Road, Moneyglass. For more information, contact Gemma on creativecouragefactory@gmail.com or WhatsApp +447923802855.

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