Newtownabbey’s Rathcoole estate is home to around 8,000 people with a vibrant young generation making waves in the creative arts.
NACN (Newtownabbey Arts and Cultural Network) Coole Studios recognise the wealth of young talent on their doorstep. With support from the Housing Executive they deliver targeted advice and support to the youth network in Newtownabbey and beyond.
Much more than a youth club, Coole Studios run a cultural hub for young people aged 8 to 25. They focus on developing young people by engaging in workshops and projects that increase their skills and knowledge, empowering them to be more socially connected and confident to succeed.
Dee Crooks, project manager at Coole Studios, has worked in the community to make the cultural hub a success. He said:
“Our young people here are buzzing with talent and we want to help make sure they realise their potential.
“The Housing Executive assisted us in securing premises above the shops in the Diamond, and it’s been a good starting point for us to connect with the community.”
“We have songwriting, DJ-ing, podcasting and music production courses that are going well, but the most successful area the kids connect with is the vocal and performing arts academies. Some of our talent have already achieved great success, with one young lady signing with three major record labels, supported by our in-house producer, Rikki Sawyer.”
Other courses provide training and guidance for event management, leadership courses and personal development. A fabrication suite with 3D printers and laser cutting equipment has enabled them to generate income – last month they were commissioned to provide over 20 trophies and 60 table centre-pieces for the 2022 Social Enterprise awards.
Computer facilities and software also allow Coole Studios to join forces with Ulster University and Epic Games to pursue a game development programme that could lead to the university providing a bursary towards a recognised qualification in this hugely popular industry.
Mr Crooks has consulted with the parents of the young people involved to ensure they are fully aware of what their children are involved in, and to encourage support to commit to the programme they are interested in.
The teamwork and leadership skills the young people have been discovering during their time at Coole Studios led to the restoration and re-instatement of local statue, the Lady of Rathcoole.
He continued: “We have between five and ten young people currently on a leadership course attending one night a week to learn about personal development, event management, teamwork, conflict resolution and young leadership.
“We unveiled the Lady of Rathcoole at our community festival last month, and the young people of the area were instrumental in organising the festival and making local residents aware of her.”
The Lady of Rathcoole is a unique creation made by sculptor Chris Toogood in the 1960s, which was removed over 20 years ago to make way for redevelopment in the area.
NACN young people worked with local resident and historian George Stranaghan, who has been researching and looking into the statue for years.
Funding from the Housing Executive enabled the full restoration of the statue and she now watches over the residents of Rathcoole like before.
Mr Crooks said: “It was quite appropriate that we unveiled the Lady of Rathcoole at our Halloween community festival - she can be perceived as a scary, strange woman.
“The whole festival was organised by the youths involved in Coole Studios and was a full day of celebration for the community.
“We believe it’s important that all generations are aware of the history of their community, and we want to highlight this even more next year when the estate celebrates its 70th anniversary. Our young people will be involved in this landmark occasion too.”
Check out Coole Studios and their cultural hub at The Diamond. They have exciting clubs and projects running several nights a week, with something for all creative young people.