Benefits of Speech and Drama

Friday 13 April 2018

Newry is a small city in the South East corner of Northern Ireland. Newry Musical Feis (known locally as ‘the Feis’) celebrates its 90th year in 2018.  This festival for Music, Dance and Speech is affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals; it is one of the largest festivals for adjudicated performance in the world.  Taking place over 42 days there are approximately 14,500 performances annually.

Many of our private teachers, schoolteachers and parents repeatedly comment on how certain children have blossomed after having a good experience as a performer at Newry Feis, including some who have been filled with anxiety in the lead up to their appearance.

Performers, themselves, have told of how their regular appearances on stage have inspired them with a confidence which carries through to other areas in their lives, such as careers and socialising. Not only does it give them the confidence to speak in public, but it gives them an interesting topic of conversation within social circles.

Recently, one parent related the story of how her 8 year old had been asked to read during a religious ceremony in church. The parent, concerned that he might be somewhat overawed by the event, asked cautiously if he would be nervous.  The answer surprised her: “No, of course I won’t be nervous; didn’t I say my poem in the Feis!!”  Surely this is testimony as to how exposure to speech and drama, not only in a private class but, in this case, in a school-based environment, can have a very positive impact.

There are many similar stories. An extremely clever young man related how he felt that his years of appearing on-stage at Newry Feis helped him enormously when he successfully attended for interview at Cambridge University.

A young woman, now an architect, related how her initial interview at university had ended up becoming a discussion about her experience as a Feis competitor; a fact which she had included in her application form when listing ‘Hobbies or Interests’.

All of these examples of real-life experiences are testament to how speech and drama and associated Feis appearances contribute to personal and social development.

The result of such experiences and benefits is very much in evidence in the healthy and well subscribed arts and drama groups in the local city and surrounding areas, where Feis performers, past and present are in evidence; in fact, they are in the majority, in most productions.  Many of these artists were not always so confident, and they readily and willingly attribute their development to the humble beginnings of a Feis appearance. Indeed, many of them, including octogenarians, can remember vividly their first stage appearance in Newry Feis.

Finally, a very important point deserves to be highlighted. In Newry, Speech and Drama performance opportunities are available to all children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay for private lessons. All classes in the thriving, ten-day long, Speech and Drama (Schools) Section may only be entered by Primary and Secondary School children who are not receiving private tuition in these disciplines. This guarantees inclusivity and enables the young performers to blossom, gain confidence in public performance, and receive expert feedback in a warm, non-threatening environment. In short – Speech & Drama performances provide opportunities that have the potential to be life-changing in terms of confidence building and the strengthening of self-esteem.

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Image Credit: Thomas Cheetham