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: 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: The Women at the Well

Today I met three women from the village of Busingiro in rural Uganda, who told me the story of the natural spring well which their families depend upon for water.

Grace Kemydngyere has lived in Busingiro since she got married forty years ago. She has eight children and seven grandchildren. Grace tells me that she has used the the natural spring well, at the bottom of the hill beside Ryamugwizi Primary School, for the past 38 years. She explains that the well never dries up even during the dry season, although this can cause problems because people come from miles away to find water. This is what the well looks like today.

Grace’s family fills a Jerry Can from this spring five times a day for drinking water, food preparation and washing. When the well is dirty the food she prepares changes colour and her children get sick. She says currently every animal uses the well and there are many diseases in the water. Her son is ill with an abdominal infection and she thinks it might have been caused by drinking water from the well. She also has worries that when her grandchildren are fetching water they might fall into the unprotected well and drown.

Grace tells me that when the well gets dirty the local community come together to try to clean up around it. She says the well is very important because without it her family would have to migrate from their community. Grace smiles at the thought of the well being protected. She says then it can be safely used to fetch water to boil and drink. With a protected well and clean water she believes her grandchildren will grow up healthy, without chronic waterborne diseases and be able to go to school, to study and acquire skills to earn a living and improve their family situation. Grace hopes for a future when her grandchildren will get an education, change their environment, construct good houses, have more land and have a better way of life.

Dinavence Kyohairwe (25) lives in Busingiro village with her husband and three children. She explains how she uses water from the well to cook food, to bathe and to wash clothes and utensils. She visits the well three times a day to fill up Jerry Cans and she boils some of the water for drinking water. Dinavence worries that sometimes when the water is full of algae that her children might become ill after drinking the water. She’s delighted that the well is going to be protected. She tells me that she expects the water to be clean and that the children will have fewer sicknesses. As a young mother she is happy that her children will have a chance to be more healthy and to grow well. Dinavence has many hopes and dreams for her children. She wants them to be physically healthy and to continue their schooling. She dreams that one day they will be a lawyer, a doctor and an engineer and that they will support the family.

Dinavence Nabwine (49) also lives in the village of Busingiro with her husband James, ten children and nine grandchildren. She explains to me how important the well is for her family. They fetch six Jerry Cans of water every day to cook food, wash their clothes and bathe. But Dinavence is concerned that the water is dirty and unsafe because when it rains, water flows down the hill through faeces and brings contaminated water into the well. As result people can get diarrhoea, typhoid and other waterborne diseases. She explains that sometimes the young children forget to boil the water and end up getting sick.

Dinavence says when the well is protected and the water is clean she will no longer have the stress and worry of bad water causing disease in her family. Her eyes light up when I ask about her hopes for her grandchildren. She says that with safe water they will be healthy to go to school and get a good education and skills for the future. She dreams that one of her grandchildren will become a doctor. Dinavence says she is thankful to people from Northern Ireland who have donated money to secure the well. She believes that with clean water and a good school her family will have a community to be proud of.

The REAP Project has allocated £2500 from the money raised by the team to protect the natural spring well beside Ryamugwizi Primary School. As you can see from the photograph above the well is not protected and as a result contains dirty and contaminated water. This is the well that Grace and both Dinavences and their families fetch water from five times a day.

However, this is what the well will look like in a few weeks time, as a result of the fundraising efforts of a small group of men from Northern Ireland in association with Fields of Life, and a partnership approach to development with the local community at Ryamugwizi Primary School.

It’s an important step on the way to ensuring that the women I met at the well today will see their dreams for their children and grandchildren becoming a reality.

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.

Tony Macaulay Guest Author at Maryland Irish Festival

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Tony Macaulay, author, at the launch of his latest book ‘Little House on the Peace Line’

This weekend Tony Macaulay will be a guest author and speaker at Maryland Irish Festival in Baltimore, USA.

Tony will be speaking in the Hedge School Tent on Saturday and Sunday and will be signing copies of his books throughout the duration of the festival.

This is Tony’s first appearance at Maryland Irish Festival and it follows the USA launch of his latest book, ‘Little House on the Peace Line’ at Milwaukee Irish Fest in August.

New Tony Macaulay memoir published today!

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‘In 1985, I went to live on the other side of the peace line. Everyone said my head was cut.’

Driven by the conviction that things can change and that he can change them, Tony Macaulay takes up a job running a youth club in the staunchly nationalist New Lodge, in an area known as Murder Mile, with youth unemployment at 90 per cent.

Challenge enough you might think, but it’s also a requirement of the job that Tony, a Protestant from the Shankill Road, and his wife Lesley live in the local community.

As the realities of life in a working-class republican community start to hit home, Tony’s idealism and faith are pushed to the limit. Inspiring, heart-breaking and often laugh-out-loud funny, this is the story of how one couple kept the faith in a little house on the peace line.

Tony Macaulay has spent more than 30 years working for peace and reconciliation both here and abroad. He is also a writer and broadcaster, and his first three books, Paperboy, Breadboy and All Growed Up, were critically acclaimed bestsellers.

For further information, to request an interview with Tony and/or to request a review copy of Little House on the Peace Line please contact:

Jacky Hawkes, Blackstaff Press
Email: jacky@colourpoint.co.uk
Little House on the Peace Line
Paperback £9.99 €12.99
978-0-85640-992-9
Publication date 8th June 2017
www.blackstaffpress.com