Sell Out Shows & Excellent Reviews for Paperboy

Paperboy StageThe Paperboy musical has premiered in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast to sell out shows and excellent reviews. Here’s what they said:

‘West End transfer shouldn’t be out of the question for Paperboy’ (Irish News)

‘A lot of plays have been written from the perspective of different sides of the conflict. Few adequately explore people who chose to walk the middle line, discovering and questioning all traditions.’ (Alan in Belfast)

‘Sam Gibson as Paperboy Tony is a revelation. Amazing stage presence, terrific voice – he’s the real deal. Like any good paperboy, he delivers.’ Belfast Telegraph

“Charming and imaginative’ (The Stage)

‘The most moving scene was when the protestant and catholic women embraced each other during the Peace Walk holding white paper doves and standing together. I remember it well and I suddenly realised it hadn’t all been in vain.’ (Anne Hailes in the Belfast Times)

‘There is a line a minute to bring a smile to your face.’ (Culture Hub Magazine)

“Paperboy” Youth MusicTheatre UK, Lyris Theatre Belfast 26.7.18

Paperboy was produced and commissioned by Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT) and presented in association with Lyric Theatre Belfast. It was adapted from Tony Macaulay’s internationally acclaimed memoir, Paperboy which tells the story of Tony, a 12-year-old boy, growing up against the gritty backdrop of 1970s Belfast. Creative duo, writer-comedian Andrew Doyle and Belfast singer-songwriter Duke Special,  captured in the making of the musical a vivid tapestry of Belfast and Tony’s world – one full of Rock Music, Doctor Who and youthful energy – recreating the vibrancy, comic timing and sense of discovery that is so enjoyed in the memoir. Directors Steven Dexter and Dean Johnson worked closely with a talent youth cast to develop a feel for the era.

Paperboy Cast Announced in Belfast

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Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT) the leading music theatre company for young people, announces the cast for their brand-new musical adaptation of Tony Macaulay’s Paperboy, to be performed at Lyric Theatre Belfast 26-29 July. The cast includes 35 talented performers aged 11-19 years, including 19 aspiring performers from the Island of Ireland, 9 from Scotland and 7 from England.

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Paperboy is produced and commissioned by Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT) and presented in association with Lyric Theatre Belfast and commissioned with funding from Arts Council Northern Ireland.

Adapted from Tony Macaulay’s internationally acclaimed memoir, Paperboy tells the story of Tony, a 12-year-old boy, growing up against the gritty backdrop of 1970s Belfast. Creative duo, writer-comedian Andrew Doyle and Belfast singer-songwriter Duke Special, have captured in the making of the musical a vivid tapestry of Belfast and Tony’s world – one full of Rock Music, Doctor Who and youthful energy – recreating the vibrancy, comic timing and sense of discovery that is so enjoyed in the memoir. Directors Steven Dexter and Dean Johnson have been working closely with the cast to develop a feel for the era.

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Rehearsals began on the 9th July and the production will come together in just three weeks. Young people were selected by Youth Music Theatre UK from their national auditions tour earlier this year, where over 1,000 young people auditioned across the UK and Ireland to join the company. Special auditions were held on Shankill Road to draw in young people from the local area where the book is set. Auditions were also held on the Falls Road.

Young Tony (Paperboy) and his girlfriend Sharon are to be played by Sam Gibson from Killinchy, Co. Down and Erin Ryder from Laghey, Co. Donegal.

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Author of paperboy, Tony Macaulay said:

“I’m excited to see Paperboy on stage at the Lyric. I can’t wait to see and hear how Duke Special and Andrew Doyle have adapted the book into a musical. I expect I’ll feel quite emotional the first time I see the talented cast of young people performing my story on stage.”

Jon Bromwich, Executive Producer Youth Music Theatre UK, added:

 “Youth Music Theatre UK has trained and nurtured over 8000 up-and-coming young performers, musicians and creatives, and produced over 80 new musical works of the highest quality. Our prestigious alumni includes Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Sam took part in our 2007 production in Belfast. This year we are delighted to present the extraordinary new musical production of Tony Macaulay’s Paperboy, from a top-flight creative team, as part of our 15th anniversary season.”

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Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

The Arts Council is delighted to support this production of Paperboy  at the Lyric Theatre through National Lottery funding.  It is vitally important that young people here are given opportunities to broaden their creative experiences and, to perform on the stage of the Lyric Theatre will be an experience that stays with them throughout their lives.  Youth Music Theatre UK has assembled an impressive creative team and I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy.”

The YMT Company of 2018 is made up of 300 talented young performers and musicians. YMT offers young people the opportunity to work with exciting composers, established directors and innovative movement specialists, developing the music theatre of the future. YMT’s aim is the personal and creative development of young people through the creation and performance of music theatre. Paperboy continues Youth Music Theatre UK and Lyric Theatre Belfast’s successful partnership.

For booking details visit Lyric Theatre Belfast Ticket Booking Link: https://lyrictheatre.co.uk/event/paperboy  and for details on Youth Music Theatre UK: http://www.youthmusictheatreuk.org

Paperboy – The Musical!

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Pictured from left are Peter Wilson aka Duke Special, Will McKee Campbell College, past Participant in the production, Tony Macaulay, author of Paper Boy and Jon Bromwich, Executive Producer. Picture by Brian Morrison.

Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT), the leading UK music theatre company for young people, that has helped shape the careers of many, including Brit Award winner Ed Sheeran and Grammy Award nominee Sam Smith, is producing a brand-new musical adaptation of Tony Macaulay’s Paperboy.

Renowned director Steven Dexter, along with co-director Dean Johnson and choreographer Jennifer Rooney, who both hail from Northern Ireland, will be joined by Belfast-born, platinum-selling singer songwriter Duke Special and Derry born stand-up comedian Andrew Doyle to bring Tony Macaulay’s much-loved memoir to life. Following YMT’s hugely successful 2017 musical adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, this rich creative team will come back together again at Lyric Theatre Belfast, continuing Youth Music Theatre UK and Lyric Theatre Belfast’s successful partnership.

The wide popularity of Tony Macaulay’s Paperboy has led to its success across the world; the book has been published in the UK and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

Platinum-selling, singer-songwriter Duke Special (Songs from the Deep) has composed music for a huge variety of projects including Deborah Warner’s critically acclaimed Mother Courage and her Children (Brecht) at The National Theatre, and a series of commissioned songs for the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, and for YMT Gulliver’s Travels.

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Youth Music Theatre UK’s Executive Producer, Jon Bromwich, said “Paperboy is a flagship show of Youth Music Theatre UK’s 2018 summer season, and it’s also our 15th anniversary season, so a very special one. ”

The production will be performed at the Lyric Theatre Belfast from 26-29 July 2018. Tickets are available here. 

 

 

 

 

Stories From Uganda: From the trauma of the 1970s to a better future for the children of Uganda

Bernard Masaba (54) is the Outreach Co-ordinator with Fields of Life, based at the headquarters in Kampala, Uganda. Bernard and I are the same age. He was one of eight children born to his parents, William and Susan.  When I was a child in West Belfast, Bernard was a boy in Mbale in Eastern Uganda. We both grew up during a turbulent time in the history of our countries. But Bernard’s story as a child during the time of Idi Amin puts many of the stories of Northern Ireland into perspective.

When I met Bernard in Kampala he shared his memories of the political turmoil, economic disintegration and insecurity in Amin’s Uganda in the 1970s. This had a huge impact on ordinary people’s lives. ‘We didn’t have anything in those years’, he told me, ‘There was no bread or sugar or soap.’

When I was getting my first job as a paperboy in Belfast, Bernard was facing much more danger in an effort to survive. In an attempt to find a source of income, as a boy he became involved in coffee smuggling. From Monday to Thursday he went to school, but on Fridays he carried 20 kg of coffee on his head on a dangerous trek through the mountains and across the border from Uganda into Kenya. The main danger was to be caught by Amin’s soldiers. They caught and killed some of Bernard’s friends. If the soldiers were on their track the children had to escape through the forests. Bernard told me about the time when he almost died after fleeing into the forest to escape from Amin’s army who were killing the smugglers they caught.

‘I walked through the forest for four days and four nights,’ he recalled. ‘In the end I couldn’t walk any more. I thought I was going to die. But then a stronger guy came along and carried me and my coffee and he saved my life. I wasn’t sure if I was going to survive. It was a tough life.’

But Bernard did survive. He completed his education and went to teacher training college and he has spent his life teaching and promoting education in Uganda.

Bernard married Miriam and they had six sons together. Sadly, Miriam died in 2012 and Bernard has had to continue to raise and educate his children on his own. It’s an indication of Bernard’s resilience that his eldest son has now graduated as a teacher, another son is a business graduate and another is studying as an engineer. His other three sons are still at school and the cost of raising them alone and paying school fees has not been easy. However, Bernard explained to me that once he has covered the costs of his own children he now supports the education of other children. He told me that he was inspired to do this by people in Northern Ireland who raise money to support children in Uganda. He said, ‘It’s so encouraging to see children’s lives transformed, from having their own shoes to having an education, thanks to the donors to Fields of Life.’

Stories From Uganda: Parents investing in the future of their children

When I was in Uganda I enjoyed meeting Stephen Tusilme and his wife Christine. They welcomed me into their home in the village of Busingiro in the Ibanda District of rural South West Uganda. Stephen told me the inspiring story of how a group of parents in the village are investing together in future of their children.

Stephen and Christine have seven children of their own and look after one orphan.  Stephen was born in Busingiro to his mother Faith and father Baziro. However, his early life was influenced by the history of Uganda. His mother’s first husband was among the Asians deported from Uganda by Idi Amin. When Stephen’s father then married another woman his mother gave her property to the sons of her first husband, leaving Stephen with nothing.

Stephen told me how he developed a strong desire to have a piece of land of his own to construct a temporary shelter so that he could marry and have a wife and children in his own property.  ‘When the passion developed,’ he said, ‘I started working on other people’s farms. When I earned some money I constructed a grass thatched house at my sister’s place. Then I started a business making and selling ropes and taking them to the market. I started making pancakes and baking bread as well, until I had earned enough money to marry my beautiful wife Christine.’

Stephen told me how he continued to develop various business enterprises, buying and selling maize and beans. He began to rent out other people’s land so that he could grow his farming business. Today he has ten acress of land with four cows producing 20 litres of milk per day, a small shop and two motorbikes that he hires out. As a result of his hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, Stephen has been able to educate his children through Ryamugwizi Primary School. One of his children, Patience is sponsored by Fields of Life.

Along with parents and guardians of other sponsored children at Ryamugwizi Primary School, Stephen established a SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization) so that they could sustain payment for their children’s education once their sponsorship by Fields of Life comes to an end. The twenty parents established the SAACO in 2015, and have made regular savings ever since, which the SACCO has invested successfully in maize. This has produced a very good return each year so that the members have been able to buy piglets and goats while continuing to grow the SACCO profits at the same time. Stephen even showed me the books!

It was inspiring to hear how this group of parents had come together to invest in the future of their children. I asked Stephen of their plans for the future and he said the parents group has three main goals:

  1. To develop members of the SACCO
  2. To sustain our school
  3. To continue to educate our children when sponsorship stops

‘When it grows to the next level,’ said Stephen, smiling broadly, ‘we will be able to provide a cow for each member. Then, if we can get some technical support and advice we can become a regional SACCO to help more people to reach their dreams.’

Stephen and Christine are typical of so many of the people I met in Uganda. They are very grateful for the support of people from other countries such as the Fields of Life child sponsors from Northern Ireland, but they are determined to build self reliance and to sustain their families and schools for themselves. It was privilege to meet Stephen and Christine and to hear yet another inspiring story from Uganda.

Stories From Uganda: A Dedicated Teacher

Beatrice Kebirungi (58) has been a teacher at Ryamugwizi Primary School in rural South West Uganda since the earliest days of the school. For twenty five years, her dedication to the children in the school and her commitment to the people of her local community have never wavered. This is another inspiring story from Uganda.

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Beatrice qualified as a Grade 3 teacher in 1993 and has been teaching ever since. When Ryamugwizi Primary School was first opened by the church it was a private school with no government funding. Beatrice told me that she often worked without pay in those early years. Eventually in 2004 the government began to support the school with some teacher salaries.

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As the school continued to grow, in 2007 the government provided some further support with a small building of classrooms and salaries for more teachers. In the same year Beatrice decided to go back to study to qualify as an Upper Grade teacher.

Beatrice explained how the school really began to develop and grow when the  REAP Project and Fields of Life began to support it in 2014. This included the construction of ‘a wonderful building’ with new classrooms, pit latrines, a kitchen and a rain water harvesting system.

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Today the school continues to grow and develop. Beatrice smiles when she says, ‘Now we have classrooms and I get a salary!’

This year the REAP Project added a staff accommodation block for teachers to live on site, to increase their time spent at school and to attract the best teachers.

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I asked Beatrice about all the changes she has been through in the school in the last twenty years. She replied, ‘The school enrolment is increasing, we have water, we are attracting very good teachers and academic performance in improving. I am proud of our pupils. Some of our past pupils are doing very well.’

39558336770_20a9f1061a_oBeatrice is married and has five children. Since she began receiving a government salary she has been investing her income in her family and in the local community.

‘I’ve had to look after my five children and their education,’ she said (two of her children are now at university), ‘and I’ve built a small home and managed to buy some land to develop projects.’

Beatrice has developed two hectares of land with coffee and banana plantations. She has built a house for commercial rental and premises for her son to operate a retail business. I asked her why she was investing in this way. ‘It’s for the future of my children,’ she said, ‘I have future plans for four hectares of land and I would love to rear cattle.’

I found it inspiring to hear that after years of not being guaranteed a teacher’s salary, when Beatrice began to earn a regular income, she looked outward, with an entrepreneurial spirit and invested in development projects in her local community.

On the day Beatrice welcomed the REAP Project team into her home I asked about her hopes for the future of the school. She did not hesitate to reply.

‘I want us to continue to improve the standards, to start a boarding section for children who live further away, as this will enable children to study for longer and improve their academic performance. A boarding section will also bring income into the school to help subsidise the children from lower income families.’

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‘I come from here,’ said Beatrice, ‘and I want to be a role model for the children, especially the girls. I tell them stories of how I have persisted to stay with them. I want to inspire them to be like me and more.’

I have no doubt that Beatrice Kebirungi will continue to teach and inspire the children at Ryamugwizi Primary School for many years to come.

Stories from Uganda: An exceptional young entrepreneur in rural Uganda

Yesterday I met 19 year old Benjamin Mujuni in his home in the village of Busingiro in rural South West Uganda. He’s an exceptional young entrepreneur with a high motivation and a talent for business.

Benjamin tells me that he went to Ryamugwizi Primary School (the school being supported by the REAP Project) but he was always more interested in practical work than books. When he left school he learnt how to grow crops and he started digging, cultivating and growing plants.

He started out by planting a quarter of an acre of beans. He harvested a bag of beans and with the profit from the beans he bought chickens and when he sold the poultry he bought a goat. While expanding his crops to a half an acre of both beans and maize, he farmed more chickens and goats, and each time he sold his produce (more bags of beans, more sacks of maize, more chickens and goats) he reinvested the profits in his business. Eventually he raised enough money (570,000 shillings) to buy a cow and continued to make enough profit to then purchase five cows. This is an exceptional achievement for a 19 year old in rural Uganda. He proudly shows me his cows (even though I was a little nervous around the long horned bulls!).

I ask Benjamin how he has been so successful in such a short space of time.

‘I don’t waste and I invest!’ he replies.

He tells me that he enjoys trading and doing business. The biggest challenges he faces is having a limited amount of capital to invest in the business and also losing out at times when his produce loses market value. He is concerned about the impact of drought on his business and explains that he wants to invest in a water pump and an irrigation scheme for the dry season. He also wants to be able to buy pesticides to protect his crops from pests and disease.

Benjamin’s eyes light up when I ask him about his dreams for the future of his enterprises. He tells me how he wants to continue to grow his business so that he can construct a good home and become a businessman, buying and selling produce across the region. Having met this smart and hardworking young entrepreneur I have no doubt he will achieve his goals. It’s another inspiring story from Uganda.

Stories from Uganda: A Leader with Vision

This is the story of Rev Robert Mugume, a leader with a vision to transform lives and his local community.

Robert (50) is the Regional Bishop for Ibanda with the Full Gospel Churches of Uganda, a pentecostal denomination. He grew up in the village of Birongo III in Ishongororo and married Mrs Jolly Nabasa Mugame. They have five children and two adopted children. He began serving as a pastor in 2001. While Robert was studying Theology at Glad Tidings Bible College he was inspired to work for the development of children. He developed a vision to start a school in his local community where children could have a quality education. He says his vision is to raise children holistically by supporting their physical, spiritual and educational development. In 2005 his vision became a reality when he started Birongo Primary School with 120 pupils. He connected with Fields of Life to assist with the construction of the school and today the school has grown to 530 pupils. As the partnership with donors from Northern Ireland continued a new vision developed to start a school in Ryamugwizi. This vision also became a reality.

Ryamugwizi Primary School is the school supported by the REAP Project that I’m visiting this week. It now has 310 pupils.

In partnership with Fields of Life and donors from Northern Ireland Robert has also established two primary schools in the neighbouring district of Kiruhura; Ulster Farmers & El Shaddai. Projects have been supported to drill boreholes and protect natural wells in the school communities (see yesterday’s blog) to ensure the community has clean water so that children remain healthy to attend school.

‘As a leader,’ says the Bishop, ‘I feel proud and thankful for the partners and donors from Northern Ireland.’

In the Birongo school they have built dormitories for children to enhance their access to education. Fields of Life has also gifted livestock and sewing machines to parents to enable them to generate income so that they can earn money to pay for their children’s education themselves.

‘I’m seeing the vision I had in 2001 now become a reality’, says Robert, ‘Lives and communities are being transformed.’

When I ask Robert how it feels to see his vision become a reality he smiles and says, ‘I thank God. I’ve seen transformation in the lives of the orphans and vulnerable children we are supporting.’

Robert is delighted to see children from the schools now becoming teachers, nurses and students at university.

Of course visionary leaders like Robert Mugume do not stop when one vision becomes a reality, so I ask him about his latest vision for the future. He does not hesitate to respond. He wants to see the children from the schools become successful in life. He wants them to aspire to be doctors, engineers, lawyers and bishops.

He has a vision for a secondary school in the region with the same ethos. He also wants to establish a vocational school for young people who cannot go to university so that they can gain practical skills for work. In addition Robert wants to establish income generating projects, such as businesses and farming, so that each school will raise funds to sustain itself and Robert’s vision will be secured for the future.

I have no doubt that this determined leader will see his vision sustained. Once again on my visit to Uganda I am inspired by hearing the story of a visionary leader creating hope and transformation in his local community.

Stories from Uganda: A young leader with a dream for a better future

I’m visiting Uganda with the REAP Project, a team of brilliant volunteers from Northern Ireland who have returned to Ryamugwizi Primary School in Ibanda, to continue to support the growth and development of the school and the local community. I’m blogging live from Uganda every day, sharing the stories of some of the most interesting and inspiring people I meet.

Today I want to share the story of another inspiring young leader – Caleb Malwadde, who works for Fields of Life.

Caleb was born the youngest of sixteen children in Central Uganda after the end of the Liberation War in 1986, when the current government came to power. His family had suffered hardship during the war in the Luwero Triangle and had lost their home, garden and cattle. As a result the family were very poor and felt like they were refugees in their own country. Caleb’s parents could not afford to send him to school. But then one day at the age of eight, Caleb was wandering around his village when Trevor Stevenson, the founder of Fields of Life, happened to be visiting with a colleague. Trevor noticed Caleb walking around and asked the boy why he was not at school. He asked if he could speak with Caleb’s parents. Then Trevor went to meet Caleb’s mother and promised her that he would find a sponsor for Caleb to go to school. In 1997 Caleb became a pupil at the First Fields of Life School in Uganda. He recalls starting school in P3 and getting shoes, a mattress, blankets and free meals. He speaks warmly about the transformation in his life due to the values and spiritual growth he experienced as he went through his education in the Fields of Life Academy, then Grace High School and ultimately to university, the first child from his family to do so.

When he graduated from university Caleb went to work for Fields of Life as the charity’s Logistics and Procurement Officer in Uganda.

He says, ‘I’m happy I’m working for the organisation that nurtured me and I am part of a team that is changing people’s lives.’

Like myself, Caleb has been inspired by the life and writings of Martin Luther King, so I asked him if he has a dream for Uganda.

He says, ‘My dream for Uganda is for respect for human rights and everyone enjoying the basic facilities of human life.’

Caleb believes this requires a change in mindsets and a type of politics where the government puts the people first. A type of democracy where political leaders want to give back to the community. The result of this would be a political commitment to massive improvements including clean water, food, free education and healthcare for all.

With young leaders like Caleb emerging in Uganda I believe his dream can begin to become a reality.

Stories from Uganda: Inspiring young people with a passion for social change

Meet Trinity Heavenz and Shamir Wiseman! Yesterday when I visited the Kosovo slum in Kampala I met these two remarkable young men who are passionate about creating positive change in their community. Their stories will fill you with hope.

Trinity (25) grew up in the Kosovo slum seeing poverty, crime, disease and a lack of hope all around him. As a boy he had the opportunity to go to the Treasured Kids School (which I wrote about in yesterday’s blog). As he learned and grew up in this positive school environment he developed a great sense of responsibility to help his community. Trinity told me of his firm belief that his community can change and it starts with a change in mindsets. With his talent and love for computers, design and the arts he started his own business called Era92 which trains and mentors young people in technology, design and the arts. But Trinity is more than a successful young entrepreneur, he also wants to have an impact on other young people. He started 92hands with his lifelong friend Levixone. It’s a youth movement to empower Ugandan young adults to transform their communities, through intensive community service. This vibrant organisation is active in many social change activities such as feeding families, empowering women, job creation and improving adult literacy. I was inspired and moved by Trinity’s story. He said ‘The only way Africa can change is to mobilise our young people to change our communities.’

Trinity introduced me to Shamir (23), one of the young people he mentors. In 2003 Shamir came to Uganda as a refugee from Burundi where he had lost siblings and friends in the violence. He met Pastor Deo in 2005 and was given the opportunity to go to Treasured Kids Primary School in the Kosovo slum (which is supported by Fields of Life). Shamir told me that when he went to the school he experienced values, love, support and opportunities that he could not have previously imagined. He said, ‘I never knew I could get a good place like this’. He went on to study at High School and now he is at university studying Graphic Design. He shares Trinity’s love for design and says his mentor has inspired him to become a success in business and to be an agent for positive social change. He said, ‘I dream of empowering and helping young people in my community. I want to impact young people to be the change.’

When I visited the Kosovo slum I was expecting to leave with heartache for the poverty and suffering I would see there. It was certainly the poorest community I have ever seen. But after meeting these two inspiring young people, I left with a sense of hope and optimism for the future of their community and the future of Uganda.

Tomorrow I will share the story of another inspiring young leader who works for Fields of Life in Uganda.