Theatre initiative to keep children off streets

The Hanover Park Theatre group teaches the youth ballroom dancing, hip-hop and drama.

Mothers in Hanover Park have started an initiative which they hope will keep their children away from gangsterism and crime and rather develop a passion for the arts.

The Hanover Park Theatre is a safe space where the youth can learn and enjoy ballroom dancing, hip-hop and drama.

The programme is run at the Hanover Park community centre in Hanover Park Avenue, from Monday to Friday from 4pm to 6pm during the school term and from 9am to 4pm during school holidays.

One of the founders of the theatre group, Denise Albertus, said in June last year she had been approached by a group of children who said that they needed a safe place to do their homework and to get away from social ills.

“So we offered them that. We came together as mothers to do something for our children and make sure that they have a safe space to be free and enjoy themselves. It all happened so quickly, everyone just came together and helped out,” she said.

For the drama aspect of the group, the youth come up with their own ideas and are influenced by the current issues happening in the community. They act these out in the form of a play and their scripts remain original.

“They want to be here. They are excited to be here. Will all the gang violence happening everyone forgets about the children.

“They can’t even play in front of their houses, so we have offered them this safe place,” Ms Albertus said.

Washeema Bennett, from Hanover Park, has three children who are members of the theatre group. She said knowing that her children were safe and not getting up to mischief was a relief.

“I support them all the way because this is good thing and it is needed in the community. Their week is so jam-packed that they don’t have time to catch on nonsense,” she said.

The theatre group took part in a ballroom competition at Ned Doman High School on Saturday October 6 and are also practising for a showcase for their parents on Saturday October 13 at the Hanover Park community centre.

Ballroom dance instructor, Justin Fabrick, said the group was excited about showing off what they had learnt, especially to their parents.

“Skills development, especially in communities like these is very important and of course a passion for children is vital when you embark on something like this,” he said.

Denise Ralph, who has three sons attending the theatre group daily, said as a mother of sons in Hanover Park it was important for her sons to be involved in something positive to occupy themselves so that they did not end up on street corners and eventually join a gang.

“My sons started about a month ago and they can’t wait to get to practice every day. My son has started to encourage his friends to join as well. I am grateful as a mother, we really appreciate it,” she said.

Tashreeq Fisher, 17, and Nashreen Bennett, 14, are ballroom partners. Tashreeq said when he started with the group two months ago he fell in love with ballroom dancing.

“This keeps you so busy, you don’t have time for anything bad. I invited my friends over and now instead of being on the corners they are here or at home with their earphones practising,” he said.

Nashreen was originally a hip-hop lover but her passion for ballroom soon developed when she joined the group two months ago.

“This is a really good thing to have in a community like this. It keeps us busy and takes all your attention so you don’t have time for other things,” she said