Blind Belfast teenager takes first step in fulfilling dream of stage career

A blind Belfast teenager is looking forward to treading the boards at the Grand Opera House this summer in her quest to become a stage star.

Monday, 24th July 2017, 6:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:13 am
Belfast teenager Chloe McCarthy and habilitation specialist Miriam de Groot

Chloe McCarthy from the west of the city will be the first person who is blind to feature in a Summer Youth Project at the venue.

The 17-year-old has had no sight since birth due to a condition which means blood vessels in the eye do not form properly.

However, she is thriving at Jordanstown School – a specialist centre for pupils who are deaf or visually impaired – and has ambitions to be a stage star.

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Chloe also attends the Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts, where she heard about the Opera House’s annual Summer Youth Project – a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist.

She applied and was lucky enough to be selected to be part of the chorus line, joining more than 230 other young people set to grace the boards at the famous venue later this week.

Chloe said: “I wanted to get involved because I love acting. The routines are very quick and a bit tricky but it’s good craic and I’ve made lots of new friends who are helping me.”

Guide Dogs’ Children and Young People’s Services have been working with Chloe since 2014. Staff have taught her to use a long cane to navigate the world around her and have also helped her with independence and life skills.

Habilitation specialist Miriam de Groot, who has been supporting Chloe through rehearsals, said: “I’m so proud of Chloe and delighted at the inclusive attitude of everyone at the Grand Opera House.”

Show director Tony Finnegan added: “Chloe has taken it all in her stride and working with her has given me a new perspective on the challenges and possibilities for people living with sight loss.”