The third person to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Fr McGrarth Centre at the awards ceremony on Friay night was Mike Kelly who is highly prized in Kilkenny as founder and Artistic Director of The Young Irish Filmmakers. But he is also one of the original creators and founders of St.Canice’s Community Action – the group responsible for the Fr. McGrath Centre and all of the other programmes and services .
A man of huge dedication to youth and to the community, he is still a director and vicechairman of the Voluntary Management Board at the centre. “After years working in inner City London, and following a couple of years working with me in Bondi Beach in Australia developing youth services for street kids - Mike returned to Ireland and his home in the Butts in 1991,” centre manager Steve Murphy said.
That first year home he organised, with Con Downey and other locals, one of the most successful local festivals organised in the community – The Butts Pride Festival – and following its huge success he persuaded parish, parents and volunteers to help him set up this organisation to work with and support the development of local kids in our parish.
“His background is in youth, community and theatre work which began in 1965 when he founded the Kilkenny Youth Theatre and as well as being a renowned and accomplished director and actor himself he introduced hundreds of young people to drama in Kilkenny and was the winner of the All Ireland Directors Award in 1976. He also, with Con Downey, was a founding member of Kilkenny School Boys Soccer. He worked with young people to help them set up their own youth clubs in the 1970’s in what is now our Neighbourhood Hall and he inspired a generation of children and young people in the Butts to believe in themselves and that they could do anything if they worked together to achieve it,” Steve Murphy said.
“During that time he voluntarily spent many years organising youth activities and exchange trips for local children in our soccer teams to London where his talent as a youth worker was finally spotted. In 1979 he left our shore to take up a job offer as a youth worker with inner City kids in London and five years later was awarded his first professional degree a BA in Honour he is currently on his way to completing a BA in Theology in Maynooth,” he said.
“While he can claim a role in the development of many youth projects in this town I know that some of his proudest moments are seeing young people who came through Young Irish Film Makers go on to form their own extraordinarily successful projects like Kilkenny’s Devious Theatre and Cartoon Saloon – projects that grew out of their time in that youth organisation. Mike Kelly has inspired generations of young people and has by his own life – full of selfless actions and care for others and dedicated to the betterment of development opportunities for young people in Kilkenny– become a role model for many of us in the voluntary and community sector. On behalf of our Board of Management and many grateful young people in Kilkenny I am proud to nominate him as very deserving of this Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Children,” Mr Murphy said to a rousing reception.