Five years in Waterloo House!

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It’s incredible that Echo Echo moved into its new premises in Magazine Street five years ago this weekend!

March 2013 was in the first quarter of City of Culture year and our new studios project was both the culmination of years of development work, planning and fundraising; and the beginning of a new period in the company’s long history. Finally a space to call home after two decades!

Waterloo House was in poor condition after lying empty for a few years, and Echo Echo’s refurbishment project breathed new life into this wonderful old construction built into the fabric of the City Walls – one of only four buildings in the city with direct access to the historic monument.

This project is a perfect example of the potential of arts led regeneration – the whole Waterloo Street / Magazine Street conservation area has benefited from the much improved visual impact and increased footfall; more local, national and international visitors for projects like Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement; and new neighbours and businesses like The Scullery Cafe, Brickwork restuarant and lounge, and In Your Space Circus.

Five years on and it has not been easy to sustain the charity, our building project remains to be signed off despite our best efforts, and the lowest arts funding budget in these islands has been cut in five successive years.

Echo Echo has done brilliantly to survive this period despite many challenges. We’ve been supported by so many local people and partners through their regular attendance and advocacy, and by our core funders Arts Council NI and Derry City and Strabane District Council as well as the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and a long list of other partners and supporters. And a big thanks again to all of our capital funders and the individuals involved.

Here are a few photos to remind you of the transformation over the last 5 and half years!

Before:

 

During:

After:

 

 

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“This has been an amazing project to be part of”

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Echo Echo recently completed a wonderful dance project in partnership with the two Donemana primary schools: St Patrick’s PS and Donemana PS.

Echo Echo Associate Artistic Director, Ayesha Mailey, developed and produced the programme along with Echo Echo ensemble artist Zoe Ramsey and Ronan McKee from Play Percussion.

The artist-teachers worked with the pupils from both primary schools over a 16 week programme from September to February. The children learned new dance and movement skills and African ‘djembe’ drumming leading to a closing performance for family members at Echo Echo Studios!

We asked the teachers involved to give us some feedback on their project highlights:

“A few of my class were very quiet and nervous about the project at first. They now relish the weekly lessons and are performing with gusto! Thank you!”

 

“This has been an amazing project to be part of. The development in good relations and community spirit has been very evident – I would love to see it continue!”

 

“This is an invaluable part of our school curriculum which is increasingly difficult to deliver in austere times. Echo Echo has provided a safe learning environment where pupils could freely express through dance.”

 

“The children have grown in confidence and enthusiasm for the arts. All children mixed freely and have reclaimed friendships forged at playgroup before they entered their separate schools. Continue to provide opportunities of this nature please!”

 

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All of the pupils from the two schools involved had a chance to reflect on the project last week and gave us some feedback comments.

We asked the children what they enjoyed about the project. Making new friends was the top answer! In addition they told us:

“I enjoyed standing out from the crowd.”

 

“I enjoyed learning new dances and having fun. I really really enjoyed performing in front of everyone. It was a great experience.”

 

“I enjoyed the breathing exercises and getting ready for the performance.”

 

“I enjoyed most performing at Echo Echo, the theatre was amazing, all the lights and curtains.”

 

“I enjoyed everyone teaching me to have enough courage to show everyone my dancing skills, meeting other children and making new friends.”

 

It was great to have so many parents and family members at Echo Echo Studios for the closing performance! We collected a few comments from them too:

“It was wonderful to watch.”

 

“It was excellent. Very well organised and the children performed brilliantly.”

 

“Boys and girls were super. Just fantastic. I really enjoyed seeing my child shine.”

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Big thanks to Derry and Strabane District Council for funding this project through the 2017/18 Good Relations programme. Thanks to Pauline O’Neill at Council and to Arts Officer John Kerr for joining us at the performance event. Thanks also to a generous gift from Give Inc Giving Circle which helped make the project possible, and to Arts Council NI – Echo Echo’s principal funder.

Finally, a very big thank you to all the pupils, teachers, parents, artists and staff involved!

 

Echo Echo regularly works with schools on a wide range of dance/movement participation and performance programmes. If your school is interested in finding out more please contact us.