Belvoir Players Amateur Dramatic Society was formed in 1968 in answer to a perceived need for some cultural and artistic outlet in the new housing estate that had recently been built in Belvoir Park. The residents of this “new community” had arrived from various parts of Belfast and from other areas of the Province. A sense of identity was being created for people from diverse backgrounds and the performances of the players provided a social as well as a cultural and entertainment focus.
With several performances per year the reputation and the expertise of the group grew and developed. Soon the Belvoir Players were proving popular with audiences throughout the extensive drama festival circuit that was, and still is, a significant part of the amateur theatre life in Northern Ireland. Summer theatre in Portrush and Enniskillen together with many performances undertaken in remote parts of the Province enhanced this reputation and acknowledged pursuit of excellence.
Membership of the group became much more widespread and the policy of encouraging association from people of all traditions, religions and cultures became the mainstay of the groups development. This diversity enriched the work and support for the voluntary efforts and all efforts were suitably encouraged by successfully attracting audiences wherever we performed.
Success in Drama Festivals spread our reputation beyond these shores. In 1983 we were invited to perform in the British All-Winners Finals in Newport, Gwent. In 1986 and again in 1994 we had the honour of representing Northern Ireland in the British One-Act Finals, on both occasions in Scotland, where again many friends were made as in The Isle of Man in 1998.
In 2000 Belvoir Players opened their new purpose built Rehearsal Studio on Belvoir Drive with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Lottery Fund and the Castlereagh Peace and Reconciliation Partnership Board. This unique facility provided many opportunities for expansion within the group and provided an innovative performance space within Castlereagh Borough Council area which was recognised by the support that emanated from the Castlereagh Borough Council.
Since its opening the Belvoir Players Studio has hosted numerous performances by both professional and amateur companies and has been home to many community based organisations that use the wonderful facilities on offer. Our production, in 1999, of Sam Cree’s Widows’ Paradise was invited to appear at the Lake Worth Theatre in Florida, USA in July 2000 making Belvoir Players a truly International Company.
The Theatre Academy
An exciting development was the expansion of our Youth Academy. Now, with our own facilities, we are able to provide opportunities for more and more young people to participate in the performing arts. The annual pantomime at Christmas which had traditionally been the performance opportunity was added to by our annual Youth Production in June to mark the anniversary of the opening of the studio.
Pictured above are the cast of the first major Academy production, The Wizard of Oz in 2001.
Productions followed of Annie; Oliver; Bugsy Malone and My Fair Lady followed in succeeding years and in 2006 an entirely youth mounted production, directed by, stage managed and lit by members of the youth group of Have a Nice Day was staged in the studio. Currently we have a membership of some 150 young people ranging from their P2 school year up to 18 and a waiting list of over 20 waiting in the wings.