One local school band is to perform all over the world thanks to the ‘XL Programme.’
Funded and run by The Prince’s Trust, XL is aimed at helping those children who are on the verge of exclusion from mainstream education, indeed society, recognising and celebrating their achievements.
One group of local youngsters have been enjoying all the opportunities offered by the Prince’s Trust. ‘The Happenin’’ are a rock band formed by the pupils and staff from Foyle View School. Already the band have performed in London, The Playhouse and hope to travel to the United States for a concert in the coming months.
The band performed at a special Prince’s Trust event at The Playhouse recently which schools from across Derry, Donegal, Limavady and Coleraine attended.
Foyle View teacher and school music director, Mrs. Denise White, said: “It is about giving our pupils as many opportunities as we can. The band has opened a lot of doors and allows us to challenge many pre-conceptions some other children and even adults might hold.”
Last month the band were invited to perform at the London International Music Education Research Centre.
Mrs. White explains: “The centre have just completed a ten year study into the effects of music on special needs education provision. We played for one hour and the pupils received a standing ovation from the 800 strong crowd at the end of their programme.”
In addition to the London concert and a planned performance at Stormont on March 22, there is a trip across the Atlantic in the pipeline. Mrs. White explains that although 16 pupils travelled to London, there is a core group of six in ‘The Happenin’’.
The band formed with the aim of; “educating the public in order to remove any preconceived notions about pupils with learning difficulties.”
Already they have undertaken shared projects with neighbouring schools, such as St. Cecilia’s College and have set up a partnership with the Performing Arts Alliance, New Jersey.
“They are very interested in how the group reached the level they are performing at,” said Mrs. White.
The band have stayed true to their roots and were named after the grounds upon which the school was built, they play their own instruments and decide on their own music.
Lead singer Sorcha Friel from Fergleen, a self-confessed “massive Glee fan,” said: “I love the band, it is great and I really want to sing alongside Damien McGinty (of Glee fame).”
Sorcha was speaking during a visit to the school by Sean O’Kane of Big Brother fame.
Mr. O’Kane who appeared on series 8 of the reality hit show works with The Prince’s Trust and had hosted the prizegiving event at The Playhouse.
“I was delighted that the school invited me to visit them and hear the band perform and even though they performed a track by Celine Dion, my least favourite artist, I loved it. I thought they were brilliant and they have so much talent. I have never heard a better version of ‘My Heart Will Go On.’”
Sean presented the band with a Big Brother publicity poster, which was signed by TV personalities, Dermot O’Leary and Davina McCaul.
“The hope now is that the band and band members remain involved with the Prince’s Trust from school through to employment, or at least until their world tour,” he said.
The former pupil of St. Patrick’s and St. Brigid’s Claudy, added he was delighted to help recognise the acheivements of all the young people involved.
Mrs. White at Foyleview School said: “We are delighted Sean was able to join us at the school.”
The band were also joined by some drama pupils from St. Cecilia’s College, with whom they have a fledgling performing arts partnership.
Gretta McTague, head of St. Cecilia’s Drama department, said: “This is a great opportunity for my girls to work with pupils who are different to them.
“It would be great if even one person in my class changes their perceptions of those with different needs. I think this has already happened to more than one though, it was fantastic to watch a pupil who was unsure of herself make friends with Foyle View pupils.”
The schools are currently working on a large production ahead of the City of Culture year but both teachers wanted to keep their cards close to their chest on the details.