Sparks Project proving disability is no barrier to inspiring children

Drumming leader Jason Welch with pupils from Lisnelgalvin Primary School at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS014
Drumming leader Jason Welch with pupils from Lisnelgalvin Primary School at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS014

Talented young adults with disabilities have been teaching primary schools pupils music, dance and singing through a pioneering local project.

The Sparks Project in Derry has been hailed as a major success during the latest in a series of workshops at the Hub in Northside in Shantallow.

Primary 6 children from Lisnagelvin Primary School are now among over 120 local children to date to receive first class tuition as part of the special education programme.

Sparks has grown out of a pilot project developed as part of Liberty Consortium, and the team now has ambitious plans to deliver free music workshops to 680 children across Northern Ireland, with schools urged to get in touch.

Sparks Projectmanager, Eamonn McCarron, said the project was based around the idea that “the best teacher is one that has overcome barriers to learning themselves.”

“We think someone who has overcome barriers has empathy and drive to work with children to enhance their creative potential,” Eamonn said.
“We train talented artists who have experienced difficulties of their own and they engender a passion for music and dance among primary school children. The leaders themselves have a very unique ability to connect with and inspire children and the workshops are aligned to supplement Key Stage 2 Music.”

Sarah Jane Murray, dance tutor, and Owen Coyle, drumming tutor, pictured with Lisnelgalvin Primary School pupils Ellie, Juliette and Lachlan at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS012

Sarah Jane Murray, dance tutor, and Owen Coyle, drumming tutor, pictured with Lisnelgalvin Primary School pupils Ellie, Juliette and Lachlan at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS012

Through Project Sparks the young Leaders, some of whom have Autism, physical disabilities and differing learning disabilities, are becoming the first generation of learning-disabled teachers,

One of the leaders, dance tutor Sarah Jane Murray (16), said: “It means I can go out and do different things- teach other schools and show how much passion I have, and be confident while doing it.

“I have been part of the Sparks Project last year and this year and all the leaders can have so much fun together. It’s buzzing. We are teaching different children and telling them not to be scared. At school if you make a mistake you might be afraid you will be scolded but here we are here to support you.”

Eamonn said staff at those schools which have taken apart so far have said they have been blown away by the by how much their pupils engaged.

Pupils from Lisnelgalvin Primary School practice a dance retinue at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS015

Pupils from Lisnelgalvin Primary School practice a dance retinue at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS015

Speaking at Northside, Janice Caldwell, Head of Music & Drama at Lisnagelvin Primary School, praised the benefits the project for both tutors and primary school children. “It is amazing in both directions - for the young guys delivering the project to see that they can do this and for our children here to challenge their perspective of leaders,” she said.

As well as urging more schools to get involved, Eamonn urged any young people that haven’t yet been given the opportunity to contribute because of a disability or learning difficulty to consider joining the project. To get in touch, contact Eamonn on 07988733202 or message Project Sparks on Facebook.

Lisnelgalvin Primary School pupil Aabel demonstrates his drums skills at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS013

Lisnelgalvin Primary School pupil Aabel demonstrates his drums skills at Project Sparks in the Northside Shopping Centre. DER2318GS013