For many years there has been an increasing awareness of the benefits of the arts for children and young people. This became apparent to Armagh-born arts enthusiast, Narelle Height back in 2000 and at the tender age of 17 she made the decision to start her own arts academy to benefit the young people in her area.
DFK Performing Arts Academy, based in Armagh city, is a not-for-profit cross-community, all-ability, performing arts group for young people aged 3 – 18 years.
With the support of her father, Narelle’s academy began life in her father’s cow shed and former milking parlour – converted into a space for the teaching of speech and drama.
Narelle’s father passed away in 2009 and keen to honour the man who had set her on the path, the then 26 year old decided to produce a show with her students.
Narelle openly admits: “I had never put on a show in my life, I’d never even been on stage myself, it was definitely a baptism of fire however it was a roaring success.
“It was the parents of the kids involved who encouraged me to continue and make it a regular thing. My very first class had 9 children in it and I remember being so proud of myself. I still have a photo of it.
“Over the years word got out and I started doing a lot of work with schools and from there the academy just kept growing”.
DFK Performing Arts Academy is more than just a drama school, part of the ethos behind it is to improve cognitive development, emotional intelligence, and social skills.
Says Narelle: “DFK is a place where young people can learn about all aspects of production, including acting, singing, and dancing. It’s a place where they can explore their creativity and develop their talents in a supportive and nurturing environment.
“Setting up an arts academy has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life”.
Narelle has always been passionate about the arts, and she wanted to create a place where young people could explore their creativity.
The academy offers a range of classes, including drama, dance, and music. It also provides opportunities for young people to get involved in all aspects of production, from set design to lighting. This means that students can explore their creativity in a variety of ways, and they can learn about the different roles that go into putting on a show.
One of the main focuses is inclusivity. Narelle believes that the arts should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or ability.
The academy offers a performing arts workshop (PAW). This offers children the opportunity to develop skills beyond drama, singing and acting.
“There are kids who love the whole environment but they don’t like or want to be on stage so PAW is about developing other skills sets.
“Currently we are getting ready to perform Madagascar and we are all very exciting. The older kids are actually sketching out the backdrops and then I’m going to teach them how to digitise them so they are getting exposure to technical training they wouldn’t normally.
Additionally, DFK has good relationships with casting agencies and the local film industry, with audition opportunities for film and TV productions such as Game of Thrones, The Sparticle Mysteries, as well as, radio work and advertising; all of which are paid roles and great experience for anyone who wants to pursue performing arts.
This is the fourth of a four part series kindly sponsored by Armagh Credit Union