Young Gifted and Green celebrate 25th Anniversary
On Saturday 7th March the iconic St Bede’s College in Alexandra Park Manchester will be turned Green to mark the 25th Anniversary of the multi-award winning ‘Young, Gifted & Green’ Irish Music, Song and Dance Show. YGG have raised over £210,000 for different charities since they were formed and this farewell concert will be raising funds for The Christie Cancer Hospital in Manchester.
St Bede’s Catholic College was formed in 1876 shortly after the Irish Famine and it has always had a large number of students and teachers with an Irish connection at the College.
The show will feature a number of former members of the troupe who have appeared in its shows during the last twenty-five years alongside a number of special guests. Acts already confirmed include the YGG Choir, musicians, singers and dancers based at St Bede’s College along with Lauren Carter the Voice of a Gaelic Angel who was one of the first principal female singers with the group plus male principal singers Daniel Mellett and Andrew Farrell. Lord of the Dance star, James Keegan who is the founding principal dancer with YGG hopes to make the show for one last time if his very full touring commitments allow him. YGG Musical director John Gibson and flute player John Gibson will be playing with Martha Wall and Billy Graham. Other musicians already confirmed are the former members of ‘Shake the Barley’ – Fidelma O’Brien and Mairead Hussey along with the award winning Fianna Phadraig Pipe Band. The shows choreographer Louise Keegan will be bringing along dancers from the Keegan Academy of Irish Dance and BBC Songwriter, Claire Mooney has been commissioned to write a special anniversary song which will be performed on the night.
There is a limited capacity at the venue and tickets must be purchased in advance from the College by contacting the main office or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.skiddle.com they are priced just £15. Doors open at 7pm for drinks and refreshments from the in-house licensed bar with the show starting promptly at 7.30pm. For more information visit www.manchesteririshfestival.co.uk or www.sbcm.co.uk
The Direct link for online tickets is https://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Manchester/St.-Bedes-College/YGG-25th-A...
Young, Gifted & Green was formed in 1995 by Tony Hennigan the Head of Technology at the College. His own Irish roots stem from Attymass in County Mayo where his parents were born.
The idea behind YGG was to try and promote Irish Culture in Manchester and to create a platform to showcase contemporary and traditional Irish Comedy, Dance, Music and Song. “I came from a family of seven and my parents always had Irish music playing in the house. But because of the troubles when we were growing up, the celebration of our Irish culture was a very private affair for most of the time.”
“It was a bit of a gamble when we decided to do something which would celebrate our culture openly and in places and venues which were not normally associated with staging such events. But the general public accepted us with open arms, all our events have been sell out shows and we have managed to help raise just over £210,000 for different charities during the last twenty-five years. More importantly though has been the development of the young people who have been involved in our events and the fact that our Irish culture is now celebrated openly. We hope it will become a lasting legacy and encourage more people to get involved in their rich Irish cultural heritage.”
YGG’s first major event was to stage a two day Irish Festival in aid of Francis House Children’s hospice which attracted just over 2,000 people. The weekend was hosted by BBC Irish radio presenter Alan Keegan who is now known as The Voice of Old Trafford at Manchester United Football Club. Amongst the stars performing at the festival were dancers James Keegan, Ciara Kennedy, Leanne Molloy and Louise Keegan. James was later to become a three times world champion and establish himself as one of the founding members of YGG’s first dance troupe. He left St Bede’s College after his last GCSE exam at the age of 16 and became one of the youngest principal dancers with the Lord of the Dance Show, he has just recently taken over the reins of the show from Michael Flatley. Louise later formed the Keegan Academy School of Irish Dancing with her brother James and became the choreographer for all of YGG’s subsequent shows. The world champion Tara Ceili band featuring Michelle O’Leary and Angela Usher were just one of a host of music acts performing over the weekend. Michelle and Angela have both gone on to teach traditional Irish Music and to inspire the next generations of Irish Musicians in Manchester.
In 1996 YGG got involved with the staging of Manchester’s very first Irish Festival and it staged another two-day showcase, this time in Albert Square in a specially erected outdoor stage in front of Manchester Town Hall. Michael Ciarans from BBC GMR’s ‘Come into the Parlour’ was the compere and the Lalley School of Dancing featuring James and Louise Keegan provided the Irish dancing.
In 1997 Tony managed to persuade a few of his colleagues and students at St Bede’s College to form a troupe of Irish Musicians, Singers and Dancers. The troupe was to be called ‘Young, Gifted & Green’. Those that got involved in forming the group were John Gibson a Latin teacher at St Bede’s College who later became the Head of Classics at the College, Louise Keegan who was then a student at the College, Denise Jones a Prep School teacher and in charge of the choir and the Prep School music teacher Lesley Cavanagh. They decided that they would stage a series of roadshows to promote the Manchester Irish Festival and to help raise money for Francis House children’s hospice.
The troupe staged their first show in the Manchester Arndale Centre in 1998 during the three weekends leading up to the Irish festival, the shows attracted over 15,000 people to the events. In the same year they were also invited to launch the festival at Manchester Town Hall for the right honourable Dr Mo Mowlam (RIP) the then secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Later on in the same year they were asked to perform at the ‘Irish Abroad Charitable Trust’ dinner with James Galway and Phil Coulter for a VIP audience that included Sir Alex Ferguson and the then chairman of Manchester United – Martin Edwards.
In 1999 the troupe were invited to perform at the press launch of the Manchester Irish festival and again held another three-week roadshow for the festival at the Manchester Arndale Centre, raising funds again for Francis House. Later on in the year they staged their first two-hour charity concert in the lead up to the millennium called ‘Cead Mile Failte’ in October for the Manchester COM.ART festival at the Palace nightclub in Levenshulme.
In 2000 the troupe staged their own charity show at Manchester Town Hall as part of the two-week annual Irish festival. This year was something of a turning point for the troupe as they got asked to appear at the prestigious 2,000 capacity Bridgewater Hall as part of the BBC Blue Peter Proms and then got invited down to London to appear at the 6,000 capacity Royal Albert Hall. They also appeared on numerous TV shows which included the BBC’s Blue Peter programme and a Songs of Praise special called ‘Dance Praise’. Other TV shows included Granada TV’s award winning six-part series called ‘The Irish Connection.’
In 2001 they staged their own show at the prestigious 2,000 capacity Bridgewater Hall for the festival. It was the first ever Irish, Music, Song and Dance staged at the internatonally reknown concert venue and sold out three months in advance of the event. The show was compered by the BBC’s Eamonn O’Neal it raised a staggering £18,000 profit for Francis House Children’s Hospice. Shortly after the success of the show the troupe launched their own CD and video with the Grimshaw brothers ‘Todd’ & ‘Jason’ from Coronation Street. During the same year it was awarded the Millennium Youth Award by the Mayo Association in Manchester. This unique award was given to the troupe as a considerable number of its members had Mayo connections, as well as its director whose parents came from Attymass in North Mayo.
In 2002 the troupe were asked to put on a concert to launch the Irish festival at Manchester Town Hall. Then in 2003, 2004 and 2005 they returned to the Palace nightclub to stage a special concert in association with BBC GMR’s Irish programme ‘The Parlour’ which was compered by Alan Keegan.
In 2006 and 2007 the troupe staged shows back at St Bede’s College, then in 2008 they staged a sell-out show at the award winning Lowry Theatre, later on in the year the troupe was the very first recipient of the inaugural Pride of Erin Award, which was presented to it by the Royal Variety Club of Great Britain at the Palace Hotel. In 2009 the troupe created their own piece of history by becoming the first ever Irish dance troupe to perform a sell-out show at the newly restored Gorton Monastery. The Monastery was saved from destruction just over ten years ago and after a £6.5 million restoration. It was designed by Pugin and is listed as one of the world’s top one hundred historical sites along with the Taj Mahal of India.
In 2010 the show was then brought back to Manchester Town Hall to stage a sell-out show in aid of The Christie Cancer Care Hospital. The Creative director Tony Hennigan then took a break to work with the Irish Government on the Gathering Tourism initiative and formed the Mayo Manchester Tourism and Business group. The group staged Tourism Ireland’s biggest Gathering Festival called the Mayo Manchester Gathering in 2013 which then became the annual week long Mayo Manchester Tradfest picking up a number of awards which included the International Mayo Award and being a Failte Ireland Finalist for festivals which attract over 50,000 visitors.
In 2014 the troupe brought the show back to St Bede’s College and finally in 2015 the group staged their 20th Anniversary with another sell out show at the Lowry Theatre this time in aid of Genesis Breast Cancer Awareness.
Tony was finally persuaded to stage one last YGG to celebrate the 25th Anniversary and its Farewell show at St Bede’s College on Saturday 7th March 2020.
YGG TV credits include:
BBC Blue Peter
BBC Songs of Praise - 'Dance Praise'
Granada TV - The Irish Connection – Six Part series
Granada TV - 'Lets Dance' series
BBC Look Northwest Tonight
Channel M TV
Live Radio broadcasts
BBC Radio 4 – BBC Blue Peter Proms direct from Royal Albert Hall
ALL FM’s Full Irish Radio
BBC GMR’s ‘Come into the Parlour’
BBC Radio Manchester ‘Irish Citizen’