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Best Foot Forward as Belfast Students Remember a Legend

In 1961 a twinkle-toed boy from Belfast set off to Manchester with stars in his eyes as a young George Best embarked on what would prove to be one of the most glittering careers in world football. Now in 2007 – as the second anniversary of George's premature passing approaches, 60 high school students from schools across Belfast are set to follow in his footsteps – only as twinkle-toed dancers, not footballers!

What: 60 Belfast students between the ages of 12 and 18 join Northern Ireland's Under 21's for Euro 2009 Qualifier, then flying from George Best Belfast City Airport, on-board Flybe's The George Best aircraft to Manchester's The Trafford Centre to perform and commemorate the life of Manchester and Belfast hero George Best. Performing on stage the students will dance to a selection of moving songs that are in some way relevant to the life of George Best. This event is not to be missed – expect a tear in your eye!
Where: The main stage in The Orient at The Trafford Centre
When: Monday December 3rd, performances at 3pm and 5.30pm

The project is a ground breaking step in Gifted and Talented Education in Northern Ireland which aims to recognise and provide provisions for students that excel academically or in sports or arts to go that extra step. The Belfast Education and Library Board commissioned Manchester based Pro-Excel to coordinate and deliver the project which saw over 300 students from 9 Belfast High Schools audition for 1 of only 60 places.

David Ryan, of Belfast Education & Library Board said:

“I saw the work of Pro-Excel at a conference in London in November 2006 and had a vision for what a commemorative project could do for young people in Belfast. This is a genuine opportunity for our young people of Belfast to set aside their many differences which divide them and unite to celebrate one of the City's most famous sons. Contact was also made with FlyBe to provide their unique ‘George Best' branded aircraft to transport the performers to Manchester â€

Once selected, the 60 students endured a gruelling 5 day rehearsal period under the guidance of the West End's Lucy Meggitt to perfect the show which they performed as game day entertainment at Northern Ireland's U21 International against Luxembourg on 16 November before heading to Manchester to perform on 3 December.

Poignantly, the show which has been supported by George's sister Barbara Best-McNarry and brother-in-law Norman will be performed on a specially erected stage at The Trafford Centre, Manchester on 3 December – 2 years to the day since George's funeral.

George's sister Barbara Best-McNarry added:

“The day in Manchester will be one never to be forgotten for the students. I would like to personally thank Flybe for providing the 'George Best' plane which they dedicated to George in March 2006.Also, many thanks to the George Best City Airport for their continued support. Both have been extremely supportive over the past two difficult years, not just to the family but to the George Best Foundation.

I have been very moved by the many projects which I have seen since George died, but what these very talented young people have done in George's memory is outstanding. To watch a perfect dance routine specifically choreographed with George in mind and performed with such passion, reduced me to tears. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all and I wish everyone involved with the project the very BEST of luck.â€

Andrea Hayes, Flybe General Manaager of Market Development commented

“Flybe is delighted to enable these young people to literally reach for the skies by providing our George Best aircraft for their very special journey. I have watched the group in rehearsal and the students' dedication and enthusiasm is totally infectious. With our track record in supporting young people in sport Flybe's partnership with this unique dance project further underlines our commitment to help children in Northern Ireland to develop their skills and talents.â€

As well as performing at the Trafford Centre the students will follow in George's very own footsteps as they visit and tour Old Trafford meeting along the way some of George's team mates from the 1960's side including Paddy Crerand – often referred to as the heart-beat of the team that won the championship in 1965 and 67 as well as the European Cup in 1968. During their visit the students will get to have photos taken with the Premiership Trophy and Charity Shield as well as the replica of the 1968 European Cup – the trophy probably most commonly associated with George Best.

Project Coordinator Liam O'Reilly said:

“It has been a real pleasure to organise this ground breaking project linking Belfast with Manchester. It aims to unites people under the banner of sport and the banner of ‘team' regardless of gender, social background or religion and for them to achieve so much in just a few days of training is breathtaking. George Best was an inspiration to a generation, and even today his legacy is so strong that he continues to inspire young people. We would like to thank Barbara Best-McNarry and her husband Norman or all their support and encouragement as well as Flybe whose generosity has been invaluable.â€

The students will perform at the Trafford Centre in the Orient area on 3 December at 3.00pm and 5.30pm, entrance is free of charge. Ahead of this performance Gordon McKinnon, Director of Operations at The Trafford Centre comments:

“The Trafford Centre is delighted to welcome the students from Belfast to perform on our famous stage following in the footsteps of Shayne Ward, Girls Aloud, McFly and Donny Osmond to name but a few. Thousands of people will be watching their performance with many George Best fans among the audience. We are just a few miles from the Old Trafford ground itself which will add a great deal of emotion to the event. Best of luck to all the performers, and well done for being selected as part of such an innovative project.

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