The brand new focal point for community arts in the Galliagh and Greater Shantallow Area was awash with colour last Friday afternoon.
‘Studio 2’ is now a state of the art facility that will allow fully integrated provision for a raft of arts based activities.
Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA) is an organisation that was founded in 1999 with the aim of providing direct access to the arts in the heart of the area.
The organisation harnesses dance, music, drama, film, digital/visual arts and expresses all that is created and learned via annual carnivals, festivals and exhibitions. GSCA also delivers the Art Reaching Communities Programme (ARC) which enables people to become trained in delivering high standard programmes and so establishes a healthy arts legacy.
Almost 20 years after the establishment of the GSCA - the opening of the new ‘Studio 2’ arts hub at Skeoge Industrial Estate will allow not only the people of the Galliagh and Greater Shantallow area to use these facilities but people from across Derry as well.
The spacious, bright and vibrant centre hosted a ‘Tastes of the World’ event last Friday afternoon which was aimed at reflecting the multi-cultural city that Derry has become.
Marketing Officer for GSCA, Nicola Hassan told the ‘Journal’: “We have an amazing array of multi-cultural activities here aimed at bringing communities together.
“It is brilliant to have so many people from so many different cultures here. It is also fantastic that we have now moved over to the new studios as well.”
Last weekend saw yet another highly successful Earhart Festival and parade take place.
“The festivals mean an awful lot to the people in this area. Everybody comes together and this is what we what to achieve-united communities.
“It instils confidence in people because they are meeting people from outside their own groups and I think it is amazing for people to experience that,” Nicola comtinued.
Diversity was certainly in evidence at last Friday’s event.
Traditional Irish music performed by leading Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann members from the city, Brendan Molloy and his daughter Siobhan greeted those arriving at ‘Studio 2’.
However, also on offer as well as samples of cuisine from around the globe were Bollywood dancers, Chinese fan dancers, examples of Irish dancing and Irish poetry recitals and singing and even yoga displays.
Members of the Syrian community who have recently arrived to live in Derry were also in attendance.
The message being sent out by GSCA is that the new base for the expression of the arts in Derry is one that will reflect the ethnic diversity of this city in the 21st century. And, by doing so, it provides a golden opportunity for people from here to experience a range of activities, artistic and cultural that has never been possible before, as well as of course allowing newcomers to the city to share their culture and experiences with local people.
The revamped ‘Studio 2’ represents a huge leap from the origins of Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA) organisation.
GSCA Artistic Director and Festival Director Ollie Green said: “The festival started in 1999, so this is our 17th year.
“Studio 2 doesn’t officially open until November - but what we have done is basically take a couple of old garages that we have used for a number of years for storage and with the help and support of, originally the Department of Social Development and then the Northside Development Trust and the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure, transformed them into what is today a thriving community arts centre for the people of Galliagh, Shantallow and further afield.
“This is important for us because we have worked from below standard premises for years. We were asking schools and different organisations for use of their halls, so it is great to finally have a place such as this.
“We are living in the greater Shantallow area which has a population of almost 30,000 people and is the fastest growing area in this city.
“The reality is that not to have arts at the centre of it would be a shame.
We are the only full-time arts organisation in the area and we needed a proper base to grow and to flourish, because I believe everything should be about servicing the needs of local people.
“Our plan, within the first year of opening Studio 2 is to have 1,600 people per week coming through these doors and attending a wide variety of programmes encompassing every possible art form.
“We are opening this to every section of our community - not just people from Galliagh and Shantallow but from across this city and to everyone that has made this city their home.”
In the almost two decades since the foundation of GSCA Derry has undergone many changes and one of those has been an increasing influx of people from many different nations.
“The reality is that this city is now a multi-cultural one. Our whole programme throughout this year in working with the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister has been under the banner of ‘Communities United’ and it is about using the arts to do just that - uniting communities,” Ollie continued.
Whilst GSCA has engaged for many years with ethnic minorities in Derry, the constantly changing global political situation means that Ireland and indeed cities such as Derry have opened up to accepting those seeking refuge from conflict - a phenomenon we are only too familiar with.
Ollie Green told the ‘Journal’: “For example we have Syrian families who have recently arrived and we have had them here and they have participated in our festival and the parade.
“More than that, we have created a friendship club, so it doesn’t just mean having one off events, its about making it feel like home all the time.
“So, this is a genuine offer to everyone in this city.
“It doesn’t matter what race, creed or colour you are, the fact of the matter is that as far as I am concerned, an arts centre needs to be open and welcoming to everyone.
“That ideal is one which will be at the heart of this centre when it launches in November this year.”
Former of Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Elisha McCallion comes from the Shantalllow area.
At last Friday’s event, the Sinn Fein Councillor told the ‘Journal’: “I think this is a fantastic chance for people to engage with each other.
“I am particularly glad, although I am being a bit parochial, to see that it is based in the heart of the Shantallow community, because it’s probably the first time that we have had such a vast multi-cultural event in the heart of this area.
“I really appreciate the fact that Greater Shantallow Community Arts have brought this into this district.
“As you can see there are many different nationalities and a great amount of diversity here.
“They have the opportunity to come together here in a social setting and this will only continue to grow.
“Of course I know a lot of faces here, but there also many that I don’t know yet.
“Anyone that has ever been in the old studios will know that by comparison there is a difference of night and day.
“Credit where credit is due. I congratulate Greater Shantallow Community Arts for creating a facility like this in the area and I would encourage as many people as possible to come and make use of it. “
GSCA Communications Officer, Jim McCafferty said: “We are thrilled by how ‘Studio 2’ has turned out and we are very confident that the centre will become a hub for the arts for the entire city to utilise.”