Budding young acting stars shine thanks to Magherafelt sisters
With a passion for acting and teaching, sisters Lisa and Aisling were determined that they would share this passion with the next generation of young stars by setting up a drama school for local children.
Bright Young Things is a drama and confidence building company now with locations all over Northern Ireland but it was created and born in the heart of Mid Ulster by proud Magherafelt woman Lisa Duffy.
Lisa graduated from the acclaimed London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and is a qualified teacher. She founded Bright Young Things Drama in 2010 after discovering the power of drama to develop creative minds and stimulate education.
Aisling Bremner, Lisa’s sister, joined Bright Young Things last year having watched the incredible impact BYT was having on young people’s lives and seeing how her own skill set could develop the impact even further. Aisling has a background in marketing and previously held the position of head of marketing at Queen’s University where her love for improving education began.
“From day dot, acting has been my passion,” said Lisa. “I did a lot of youth workshops when I was at school and was fortunate enough to be selected for National Youth Theatre and LAMDA before following an acting career in London.
“While I was loving the life of an actor in London I was drawn to the arts in education and so went back to university to gain a PGCE and retrained as a teacher.
“From there, I worked in a lot of really tough inner-city schools in London and I found that my background in arts really helped me thrive in teaching. Contrary to popular belief, a drama background had given me such a wide reach of possibilities for what I could do outside of being on a stage. It felt like the perfect tool to be an educator.”
Aisling added: “I was watching what Lisa was doing with Bright Young Things and how she was encouraging children and young people to develop their confidence and ability to speak up and I just connected with what BYT were doing with what was missing from traditional education. And so I joined Lisa in Bright Young Things as I want to help her in making a difference for children across Northern Ireland.”
Bright Young Things was born in Magherafelt eight years ago when Lisa returned home from London and since then it has spread its wings throughout Northern Ireland, with schools also sprouting up in Belfast, Portstewart, Armagh, Ballymena, and Holywood, as well as summer camps all over the Province.
“When I returned to Northern Ireland, I began looking for a role that could combine my two passions and soon found that there was a shortfall in arts education here,” explained Lisa. “Northern Ireland has such a strong tradition in speech and drama and elocution but that’s very much on the assessment side, focusing on using exams to quantify but from my training I felt that there was no such thing as being able to put a grade on creativity, and I wanted to offer something more dynamic. And so, Bright Young Things was born in 2010 in our hometown of Magherafelt.”
Lisa has been amazed at the success of Bright Young Things, with even more summer schools opening this year to keep up with demand. “Despite a difficult economic market when I launched in Magherafelt, we enjoyed instant success in the local community and shortly after, we then went on to launch our second location in Belfast.
“I’m delighted to say that less than eight years later, Bright Young Things, has grown from strength to strength and now operates in seven locations across Northern Ireland.
“ And we have just launched our biggest ever summer programme which includes six new locations added for 2018 in Cookstown, Newry, Omagh, Hillsborough, Newcastle and Whiteabbey with summer camps being held in 17 locations across Northern Ireland.”
The success has been so great that actor Jimmy Nesbitt has also come on board as patron, much to the delight of the sisters. “Aisling and I, along with our two sisters and mum, organised an event for dementia awareness four years ago and Jimmy was the host along with Sarah Travers. His mum died of dementia the same year as our dad so we had a really strong personal connection. When I told him what I as doing, straight away he said ‘How can I help?’
“He’s a very busy man, but he’s very willing and any time he can help, he does. As part of our new summer programme, we have launched the first ever BYT Actor’s Studio for 12 - 18 year olds and Jimmy is giving all members who attend the chance to win the ‘The Jimmy Nesbitt Creativity Award’ which includes a one-day visit to join him on the set of one of his forthcoming projects next year.”
There will be plenty to keep the kids creatively occupied at the summer camps this year, as Lisa explained: “We have designed a programme which gives parents the confidence that while their children are having a fun week, every game, activity and technique that we use is designed to develop their child’s life skills and emotional intelligence, to build their confidence, communication and creativity, whether that is for the stage or the boardroom.”
For further details on Bright Young Things and how to get involved, visit www.bytdrama.com.