by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Northern Ireland students will be the first in the world to experience the ‘Smashed Live Virtual Tour’, a global programme that is dedicated to supporting young people in resisting the peer pressure of underage drinking, as it is live- streamed into classrooms. Northern Ireland will be the first region to host the virtual tour with the two-week programme which was launched on 12 April set to reach over 4,500 children aged between 11yrs and 14yrs.

Education Minister, Peter Weir, joined Year 8 pupils at Ashfield Boys High School for one of the world’s very first performances and to see how engaging with young people can help them make the right choices around alcohol.
The programme, which has been running for five years in Northern Ireland, has traditionally been delivered through live performances, however in 2021, Smashed has been updated to replicate the interactive excitement of a live theatrical performance and workshop in a format that allows engagement ‘in school’ in a covid-safe way.
Led by Collingwood Learning and sponsored by Diageo Northern Ireland, Smashed is a theatre based programme to educate young people on the dangers of underage drinking in a way that is creative, engaging and hard-hitting. The performances which are being live streamed from a purpose built studio space, seek to empower young people by equipping them with the information, awareness and confidence to make responsible choices around alcohol.
Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I fully support the ‘Smashed’ programme which to date has been delivered to 50,000 students across Northern Ireland.
“This important programme, which is aimed at the prevention of underage drinking, educates our young people about the dangers associated with alcohol misuse and providing them with information, awareness, and confidence to make responsible choices around alcohol.
“The Executive places huge importance on tackling the issue of alcohol misuse and programmes such as ‘Smashed’ have a very positive impact not only on our young people’s lives but also on our local communities and wider society throughout Northern Ireland.”

Claire Hutchinson, Corporate Relations Manager, Diageo Northern Ireland, said:

“Working in partnership with Collingwood Learning we have had an overwhelming response from students, teachers and stakeholders since we introduced the Smashed programme five years ago. This last year has been like no other and the challenges of COVID have highlighted the need for all of society to be alive to, and help address, the challenges, needs and expectations of young people.

“It is for these reasons that we are especially pleased that Northern Ireland is hosting the first ever virtual Smashed series reaching a further 4,500 students and ensuring that the programme can be delivered in a way that provides the impact, relevance and engagement of a live performance. We are delighted that through this programme and our current activity we will have reached over 50,000 pupils in Northern Ireland over the past five years with our messages of positive drinking.

“We are grateful to the Education Minister for his participation in today’s session and his support for the wider programme. We are fully committed to partnering with the Department of Education and the wider Executive in helping younger people to make the right choices around alcohol.”

Within the virtual performance, students will experience a live theatre production presented by professional actors accompanied by interactive workshops, evaluation and teaching resources for schools, which have been endorsed by The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations, and Assessment in Northern Ireland.
The Smashed Project is now live in 25 countries and has reached almost 1 million young people globally. The launch of the Smashed virtual tour in Northern Ireland supports Diageo in achieving its Society 2030 ambition of educating over 10 million people on the dangers of underage drinking.

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Education Minister Peter Weir with Diageo's Claire Hutchinson



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