When he went to university to study for his degree in Business Studies, Daryl Moore from Greysteel never thought that one day he would in charge of pulling together one of the largest youth arts festivals in Northern Ireland.
Indeed when he graduated, he took up a position in a bank - but soon the lure of community work became too much and he became heavily involved in the community and voluntary sector - focusing much of his work on young people and those with disabilities.
In April of this year he took on the role of Education and Outreach Officer - a role, he explains, which involves more than you might initially think.
“It’s a full on role,” he explained, “which covers everything from the annual Interact Festival to making sure the building itself is as accessible to everyone in our community as it can be.
“I’m here to offer tours of the building to anyone who may want them. I’m charged with making sure the Forum is accessible to people with disabilities - that is everything from making sure the building is physically accessibly to organising things like a dementia friendly performance of the panto, and a relaxed performance of the panto to suit people with autism.”
On top of this Daryl visits local schools and community groups reaching out to teachers, community workers and members of the public in an effort to give people more ownership of the Forum.
“A lot of people don’t realised we are an open, public space. People can come in here any time they want. They don’t have to be buying tickets or going for something to eat - the space is open for people to come, have a sit down, read a book, meet friends, even bring in a spot of lunch.
“We have this amazing resource right on our doorsteps and we might as well make the very most of it,” Daryl said.
There is no doubt, however, that the Interact Festival is one of the key events in Daryl’s calendar. A week long programme of workshops and masterclasses, covering everything from street dance to photography, musical theatre to costume design - it is a programme of the highest quality facilitated by some of the top names on the local arts scene.
And it’s all free.
“It’s very important to us to keep Interact free,” Daryl said, even if that does mean he has to work extra hard to secure funding in the build up to the programme at the end of August.
“The fact is that we are living in what is basically a deprived area. It’s important to us to make the arts as accessible to people, no matter what their backgrounds. It’s very important to the Forum to be seen to be giving something back - and that is what Interact does.
“What we do is give young people access to all forms of the arts, and allow them to mix with people of all backgrounds, all abilities during the week.
“It’s also hugely important in a city like Derry, where the arts scene has always been so lively.
“We want to ensure there is a new generation of young people as passionate about the arts as their predecessors.”
And Interact is hugely popular - attracting young people from the city and further afield. People travel from Coleraine and Ballymena, from Donegal Town to attend - and Daryl believes this is down to the quality of the workshops provided.
“We talk to young people to see what they want as part of the programme. They tell us what they want - what has worked for them in the past and that helps form the programme for this year.”
Already Daryl has been inundated with reservations for the programme - it is so highly thought of that registration had only been open for one hour (from midnight!) when the first email enquiring about a booking dropped into Daryl’s inbox.
“It is hugely popular and we are confident this year will be another huge success,” he added.