Newtownards duo forge new and innovative approach to drama by launching Up to High Doh drama theatre
A new drama studio for children has seen numbers double in just seven months after receiving start-up support from the Go For It programme in association with Ards and North Down Borough Council.
The project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.
Newtownards-based Up To High Doh Studio, which offers drama classes for 4 to 18-year-olds, has gone from strength to strength since it started in September 2021.
Social media manager Anne-Marie Donaghy (24) and performing arts teacher Lucy Bailie (28) teamed up to launch the studio as a way for post-lockdown children to become more used to interacting again.
Lucy said: “Anne-Marie and I both studied acting and drama at university and had always wanted to work together. We’re both based in Newtownards, and it seemed like there weren’t a lot of drama classes there for children.”
The pair had been mulling the idea over for about a year when the High Street premises that are now home to Up To High Doh Studio became available. The plan was to forge a new and innovative approach to children’s drama – instead of acting plays that had already been written, they wanted the children to write their own material.
“It was so strange for children to be locked away for so long and then all of a sudden you have to come out into the world again and learn to socialise again. We wanted to build up their confidence and help them post-lockdown to go back into socialising with their friends and going into school,” Lucy explained.
The pair launched the studio in September 2021 after a summer of preparation, with the help of the Go For It programme.
“The programme really helped us. We’d been talking about it for a long time but having our business adviser Julie – somebody who knew what they were talking about – helped us to put together a more concise plan of action.
“She was able to give us a lot of help with the Facebook ads and also give us details of other courses we could go to, to help with social media and other aspects.
“Before we opened the doors, we had to get our profile raised on social media, on Facebook, on Instagram, because we were just two girls from Ards that nobody knows. So we needed to build trust that we could look after the kids and we needed to get our name out there.”
And the scope of the classes is set to expand, as Lucy explains.
“At the moment we’re just performing out of the studio which is quite basic in terms of lighting and stage. So the next thing will be to get into bigger stuff with some lighting and make more of a production of it – that’s what we’re aiming for next!”
Deputy Mayor of Ards and North Down Robert Adair said, “I’m very proud that Ards and North Down Borough Council has supported the Go for It Programme in providing start-up businesses like Up to High Doe with the necessary support and advice to get up and running in the local area.
“I was looking at last year’s figures and was impressed to find out that the Go For It Programme has supported over 160 young entrepreneurs in the Borough, creating over 100 jobs. This level of enterprise is great for the Borough as we have a very talented and educated workforce as well as a fantastic location.
“I am delighted to see Lucy and Anne-Marie’s business go from strength to strength and have no doubt that the business plan and mentoring that the Go For It programme has provided will provide his business with a roadmap for success.”
Julie Halliday, Business Adviser, added: “It’s wonderful to see Anne-Marie and Lucy bring the vision for their business to life. They are both so passionate about their product, and through the Go For It programme were supported to develop a business plan and financial projections for the first two years of trading. I have no doubt that Up to High Doh will be much-loved by its students in Newtownards, and that this is just the start for these talented local entrepreneurs.”
The programme really helped us. We’d been talking about it for a long time but having our business adviser Julie - somebody who knew what they were talking about - helped us to put together a more concise plan of action.
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It team on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.