Castlederg mum's initiative to bring drama into children's lives

William Smith


William Smith


YOUNG children living in the west of Northern Ireland can look forward to an exciting new drama and story-telling experience thanks to the initiative of one local mum.

Avril Loughlin, from Castlederg, has started a Debutots franchise in the area, offering a unique blend of storytelling and dramatic play in classes for parents and babies, as well as older toddlers and children, after realising how much young families has missed out on through the pandemic.

Avril said: “As a mummy to two little boys myself, I know first-hand how difficult the past year has been, especially for our children. I decided I wanted to do something that could help provide opportunities for children to express and grow their imagination, creativity and confidence and have fun along the way too! Debutots offers all of this in an exciting programme that is linked to Northern Ireland’s national curriculum for preschool right up to Year 3.

“What’s more, parents are also able to attend some of the classes with their children. I felt this was really important as for those who have had their babies during lockdown, there have not been the opportunities to go to classes with their little ones, nor to meet other parents, in the way that we have come to expect. I have made sure to include some classes on weekends and throughout the school holidays so that those who may have already returned to work after a maternity leave spent in lockdown can still join in.”

Avril offers a wide range of services in Omagh, Strabane, Castlederg, Irvinestown, Fivemiletown and surrounding areas and her two young sons have been excellent at helping her practice her classes at home. The classes have already proved popular with local families. Gemma Gilfillan has been attending with her young child and highly recommends the classes. She says: “Being back in a social class environment and learning new sounds, actions and activities has been great as well as having some quality time with my toddler.”

As well as weekly parent and toddler classes, Avril is also holding monthly themed events for children aged up to seven-years-old which have proved very popular. Themes include Starting Big School in August and a Roald Dahl day in September.

Avril is keen to support local families with her classes, as little ones dip their toes into the world of stories, words and sounds, they embrace the Debutots unique blend of storytelling, puppets, bubbles and movement to music, which combined together brings so many benefits to even the quietest of children.

Avril says her Debutots classes have been very well received: “I’ve really seen children’s confidence grow through the Debutots classes and parents have really enjoyed having the chance to meet others and enjoy the storytelling and drama with their children. Imagination can take you anywhere, and I really enjoy working with the children and watching their imaginations come alive!”

Other Debutots services available include Nurseries and Schools sessions, Birthday Party Packages, Wedding Speech Entertainment and much more!

For information about any of the classes or services Avril offers, or to register your interest for the parent and toddler sessions, visit, call Avril on 02881 618350 or email

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