Narnia Experience transforms St George's Hall and lives of local people

A walk-through production that will transform St George’s Hall into C.S. Lewis’s Narnia has also helped three young people overcome challenges and develop new skills for the future.

A walk-through production that will transform St George’s Hall into C.S. Lewis’s Narnia has also helped three young people overcome challenges and develop new skills for the future.

The Narnia Experience takes place between February 11th-23rd and involves more than 500 volunteers of all ages from across the Merseyside area.

Audience members are led through Narnia - which includes a forest of 80 pine trees - by characters from the story, and get to meet Mr Tumnus, Mr and Mrs Beaver and the White Witch. The event is put together by Christian Charity In Another Place which uses the arts to share the Christian message and develop community partnerships. Their 2011 Narnia production attracted 17,000 visitors and the 2013 production sees even more volunteers and some exciting new changes.

Jack Winter (pictured top right), 22, from Wavertree is one of this year’s volunteers and is preparing to play Mr Tumnus. Jack has dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and hyperactivity disorder. When he was offered the part of Mr Tumnus, Jack also volunteered at In Another Place’s small Narnia Experience in Bootle New Strand shopping centre, meeting visitors and shoppers. He is now rehearsing for the bigger St George’s Hall production. Jack says that he feels he has really learned about the value of volunteering and he has developed new acting skills. He said: "My involvement in Narnia has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. I am no longer just stuck in my flat doing nothing. It's given me things to do with my life and I think it is making me a better person."

Jack plans to stay involved with In Another Place after the Narnia production and hopes to learn how to operate their giant puppets or join one of In Another Place’s assembly teams, which visit local schools with drama productions.

Gary and Gina Southern from Kensington have also gained a new experience as part of the Narnia team. The couple married two years ago and both will take on the roles of statues coming back to life in the witch's courtyard, and Gina will also be a dryad, leading people through the Narnia set. Both Gina and Gary have had obstacles to overcome in their lives - Gina has a chromosomal genetic problem which causes obesity in females in her family and learning difficulties in the men. She continues to do much of her own family’s caring as well as helping Gary who also has learning difficulties. Together they are a great team, but they have sometimes been the brunt of unkind comments from others.

One of the songs in the Narnia production includes the words 'there's a place for us : exactly who you are is just enough’ and Gary and Gina say that they both feel this is true of their involvement with Narnia. Gary said, "I am looking forward to it. This is the first play I have ever been in". Gina has done a bit of acting but is also excited to be part of such a big production.

Annie Spiers, Director of The Narnia Experience said: "We are sure the 2013 production will delight first time visitors and returning ones. To put an event on of this scale with volunteers from all backgrounds and abilities shows what can be achieved with a clear vision, good teamwork and faith in God to help us bring all the details together.”