Anne Hailes: The Art of the Show


SHOWBIZ is booming these days – small companies, established theaters, gigs, gigs – but where does it all start?

One place is an acting school and we have a few, but Center Stage seems like the place to be next month.

For over 35 years, Roma Tomelty and her husband Colin Carnegie have written and performed in plays across Ireland and Britain, but central to their thinking was how to introduce children to the form of art that plays, and one of the most popular and successful ways was to bring young people together for a week of theatrical activity.

“Performance in all its forms has all the ingredients to give children a knowledge of how to behave in both the social world and the business world,” she said.

“At our summer school, for example, teenagers from all walks of life and from many parts of Ireland, the UK and Europe come together over a summer weekend and six days later they have a end of year show.

“It means building teams, conveying individual ideas to other students and tutors, developing eye contact, memory skills, learning confidence and the sheer joy of entertaining an audience. .

“All of this helps a young person develop character and helps them deal with bullying, approaching adults and job interviews in the future.”


Roma passed away in April 2020 and it has been more than difficult to keep the business going in these sad times and with the pandemic making its presence felt, but Roma’s belief that the show goes on a lot has been passed on to his children.

His daughter Hannah had taken responsibility not only for the business but also for the summer school which will be held this year on the slopes of Slemish Mountain, a 40-minute drive from Belfast.

She recognizes that the children have had enough difficulties over the past two years and this is a chance to step out into a world of fun and creativity.

“It’s not a summer camp – it’s in class at 10 p.m. and in bed at 11 p.m. In the meantime, they will learn the benefits of theatre, music and dance with professionals who will guide the 8 to 18 years through the disciplines and the challenges but also the joie de vivre of the theatre, whether professional or amateur.

“The camaraderie, the sharing of thoughts, the self-esteem and hard work of being part of a stage crew and the magic of performing art…every day is different, whether in the classroom or outdoors enjoying the countryside.”

Students will work with dance teacher Jazzmin McClure, St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast Music Director James McConnell and the cast team Eoghan Lamb, Mark Claney and Rachael herself.

Throughout the week, there will be the underlying intention to build toward the “end of the show,” when parents and friends can enjoy the fruits of the happy labors of their young ones.

There are two weeks of dramatic summer holidays: from Sunday July 24 to the following Saturday and from Sunday July 31. More details at or email [email protected]


Where does the love of performing begin? As for singer-songwriter Conal Montgomery, he grew up in a house filled with music and Barry, his older brother, was an Elvis fanatic.

“When I was about 12 it was Elvis and rock and roll, then in my early teens I discovered my own sound, with AC/DC and Metallica, then I started liking John Lennon as well and that led to a career as a singer with rock bands – I didn’t need an instrument, I was the leader and my voice was my instrument,” he says.

Conal has proven that the stage can sustain an artist and now in his 50s he has charted his life in two albums, both crafted during lockdown.

With Happy Being Free, he talks about his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and kindly talks about his daughter’s mental health. In 2016, he conquered his demons and for that he thanks Jodie, who had voices in his head: “They were telling her to kill herself, that she shouldn’t be there and I knew that I had to help her and that was the turning point.”

His second album, which will be released on June 16, also tells stories of his life now that he is free from addiction and his daughter is more settled.

The Corner Stone primarily chronicles his experiences living in his home town of Killyleagh, on the shores of Strangford Lough.

“Every city has a cornerstone that holds the memories of the past to look back with fondness, reminds of people gone but never forgotten,” he says.

“My wife is a chef and she makes a dish called Soupy Stew, some people like soup, some like stew, and this album is that kind of mix and I think it works.”

After listening to it, so am I. Whereas with the debut album, lockdown meant no launch or tour, so Conal used Facebook as his platform, making eight videos a day and fan requests piled up.

With Corner Stone there is now the freedom to take this album, recorded and produced by his school friend Gerard Dornan at Hillside Studio in Loughinisland, and present it to his audience.


“I am now a grandfather of four girls, I am surrounded by beautiful women,” says Conal.

“I have reinvented myself in recent years and find peace on the shores of Killyleagh.

“Now I walk with my dad three or four times a week, I got my driver’s license, I write and sing and at the moment I’m helping Jodie move into her new house – my only problem is the wallpaper. These are the important things in life.”

It is interesting that Conal is involved in music therapy for children and leads a drumming circle, proving that the rhythm of life begins at an early age and is lifelong fun.

:: The Corner Stone can be purchased through Conal Montgomery Music on Facebook.


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