Local teens reflect on lockdown experiences with virtual video

A multi-disciplinary arts project entitled ‘Only Child’ is the latest in a series of lockdown initiatives from Derry-based arts organisation Allegri.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 10:31 am

Bringing together an exciting collaboration of poetry, newly commissioned choral and orchestral music, animation and video content, the project has culminated in a video, released this week, which offers a lasting memorial of this momentous time.

The project reflects the lockdown experiences of local teens and is the latest in a series of virtual offerings from the team at Allegri who have engaged and connected 1,250 local people of all ages through multiple online projects and original virtual content since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit.

Over the last five months young people aged between 13 and 18 have worked alongside professional creatives to give voice to their emotions and experiences in a series of online poetry and choral workshops and the final result captures what it has been like to have been a teen over the last year.

The emotional and physical effects of the pandemic have been acutely felt by teenagers at an already challenging stage of life. The last 12 months have visited upon them a wealth of emotions from anxiety and fear, to loneliness and confusion. Isolation from friends and family, virtual learning and the cancellation of important social occasions and activities which are an integral part of the teenage experience have all come together to intensify the stress of the pandemic.

Jointly sponsored by the Community Foundation NI and Derry City and Strabane District Council, the project is a collaboration between members of Allegri groups Allegri Youth Choir and Orchestra NorthWest alongside members of the city’s McPhillips School of Speech and Drama.

This homegrown project brings together a selection of highly acclaimed industry professionals including County Down BAFTA winning poet and playwright Damian Gorman, and three Derry creatives - world-renowned composer Seán Doherty, animator Mike O’Callaghan from award-winning Oaken Studios who lists work with Disney Pixar among others on his CV, and multi-disciplinary performer and producer Eoin O’Callaghan at Amelia Films.

Allegri’s Maurice Kelly is the artistic director of the project and has edited and mixed the soundtrack comprised of individual sound recordings submitted digitally by Orchestra NorthWest and Allegri Youth Choir members.

Discussing the project, Maurice said: “We wanted our young people to feel that they were both being heard and listened to and then to document their accounts in a meaningful way. Based on their unique perspectives, Damian wrote a splendid poem. We then took this text to Seán and commissioned him to set it in a short piece for singers and orchestra. He returned a beautiful score which has really given wings to Damian’s words.

“We had originally intended for the piece to premiere in a live setting this Spring. However, as lockdown has continued, we have instead engaged Mike and Eoin to produce a music video which mixes the two visual styles, featuring some of the young people who spoke with Damian in the first stage. I think there’s lovely symmetry in that. The final product is a stunning piece of collaborative art.”

For the young people involved in the project, the experience was crucial not just in offering them the beneficial process of sharing their emotions and feelings with others of a similar age, but also as a distraction from the trials of lockdown and a unique opportunity to contribute to something meaningful amidst the uncertainty of the last 12 months.

The final product is now available on Allegri’s YouTube channel (@AllegriDerry) and can also be accessed on their other social media feeds.