The Monthly interviews Denny Dennison and Neall Humphries from Chez Nobody, the Lurgan based Youth Arts Centre.

How did Chez Nobody come into being?

Denny:

Myself and Neall knew each other from the music scene. Both of us play in bands in Belfast and we met each other at Culture Night a few years ago. We found out that we were both from Lurgan and that started a friendship and eventually a working relationship.

Neall:

Denny was always thinking about making something happen in Lurgan and we were poking around antique shops looking for a place where we could organise events and we found this venue and Denny thought that we could make things happen here.

It seems like quite a large space to take on?

Denny:

My motivation was that I always wanted to set up a place where people could be creative.

I’ve always been involved in making music. I  started DJ’ing when I was around 15 and I’ve played in bands for years and while I enjoy being part of other people’s projects or playing in other people’s venues, I always wanted a place where I could make things happen; where I could put my ideas into practice.

Neall:

Denny and I think along the same lines in terms of providing resources for anyone who wants to do something creative. The good thing about this premises is that there is plenty of space and it’s a work in progress, so we hope to make changes as we go along and offer more and more to the people who come here.

So what do you do at Chez Nobody?

Denny:

What we are really offering is an artistic resource for anyone who want to come here but especially for young people. Young people meet up here; writers, poets, film-makers, people looking to form bands and they get together and discuss projects that we can then help to make a reality.

Bands can rehearse here, pop videos have been filmed here, we are open to all things creative. The most important thing, and anyone working with young people will know this, is that we make sure we have a relaxed atmosphere and there’s no pressure so that everyone develops at their own pace.

We also have an international perspective, so the music we play, the books that we have on the shelves, that creates an atmosphere which isn’t just about our locality. We don’t have a provincial approach.

Neall:

Anyone who comes into our coffee shop, for example and that is not just young people, will hear world music, ska, soul, reggae, it’s a really wide mix. We have soul DJ’s, Mods on scooter runs, all sort of people who come in and everyone who comes here would have that approach to life.

Do you get any financial support?

Denny:

Not yet, although we have the coffee shop here which helps with some of our finances. We have been working with CIDO (Craigavon Industrial Development Organisation) and we have set ourselves up as a charity. We are constituted and we are looking at how we go about the proper management of the premises. We want to expand with regards our capacity. We have a lot of space here and we can only do so much without funding.

Kids come in here and they have access to instruments, arts supplies, space,  but we could do so much more.

You can see all the paintings which we have up on the walls and all of this happens with lots of imagination but very little in terms of funds.

Is there anything else like Chez Nobody around this area?

Denny:

Firstly we are not a bar so that allows young people to come here freely. There is very little with regards accessible spaces where young people would feel comfortable coming and Chez Nobody has become a hub where often there is a core group that come here all the time.

We have an open door policy and if you are interested in creativity, then you can come here and work away.

How do you see the future for Chez Nobody?

Denny:

I would like to set up Chez Nobody style centres in other towns right across Northern Ireland, especially in country towns where there is very little in the way of support for young people to get involved in music or art or anything else that they might be interested in.

Neall:

In the short term we will continue to develop our resources here and build on what we have already achieved.

 

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.