The next project saw Edwards & Company join forces with Lyric’s creative learning department in its work with the young offenders at Hydebank Wood College in Belfast.
“They were interested in redefining the relationship between solicitors and these young men, who normally engage with lawyers under more stressful conditions,” explains David McClurg, Edwards & Company practice manager.
“This was a great fit for us on many levels as an educational project that our employees could be actively involved in with the potential for long-lasting benefits for all sides. It also gave our staff a chance to practise the vocal skills they had picked up from Michael Corbidge.”
The project involved two half-day workshops at Lyric Theatre, during which status games, communication exercises and interview skills were developed. The boys interviewed the solicitors for a hypothetical job at Hydebank and the boys were interviewed for a job related to their hobbies.
The degree of social interaction between the two groups was deemed a huge success with many of the boys, after admitting their initial reluctance to get involved, saying that they were very glad they did. It culminated in a short radio play based on the project, ‘Life at Hydebank and at Edwards & Company’.
Penned by Philip Crawford, the play satirised the earlier series of interviews which had taken place between the solicitors and the Hydebank boys, but this time the roles were reversed to great comic effect.
Everyone involved was outside their comfort zones as they filed into Strand Studios early one Saturday morning to record the piece for radio. Once again, it provided an opportunity for further interaction between Edwards & Company staff and the Hydebank boys, only this time on a much more level playing field as no-one had any previous experience of acting or had ever set foot inside a recording studio.
A few weeks after the recording was completed, the participants gathered in the boardroom at Hydebank to listen to the result. “Everyone was delighted with the outcome, with a number of solicitors and Hydebank boys expressing a keen desire to stay closely involved in the arts in future,” Crawford explains.
“True to their word, some of the Hydebank boys helped in the construction of sets for various Lyric productions last year.”
But the key outcome is undoubtedly the continued relationship between Edwards & Company and Hydebank. One of the solicitors is currently advising two of the young men she met during the project about issues relating to access to their children, while another was able to stay in Northern Ireland after a deportation order was overturned following written letters of support from the company. There has also been interest from some staff in becoming mentors for offenders’ organisation Niacro to develop the work they started with the boys.
“Overall we have gained so much through our association with Lyric Theatre. It brought benefits we had never imagined to the business – it brought our staff together in a creative, enjoyable way that also produced measurable and practical rewards for the firm,” says McClurg.
“We have worked closely with many arts organisations over the years and are always looking for interesting projects to get involved in and look forward to working with the Lyric again in the near future.”
Arts & Business is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.