Schoolgirl hoping Branagh will help make her stage school dreams come true

P6 pupil Annabelle Junk was just eight years old when she wrote to the Sir Kenneth in 2016, asking for his help to set up a stage school in his former neighbourhood

A SCHOOLGIRL from Sir Kenneth Branagh's former neighbourhood is hoping today to take her two-year campaign for a local stage school to the Hollywood director himself.

Annabelle Junk, a P6 pupil at Seaview Primary School in north Belfast, was just eight years old when she wrote to the Sir Kenneth in 2016, asking for his help to set up a stage school on the inner-city York Road.

Her handwritten letter asked the famous former Mountcollyer resident for his assistance with founding a centre to teach "acting, film-making, theatre and dance".

Annabelle, who takes regular ballet classes at a dance studio set up on York Road after parents in the area lobbied a teacher in Portadown, wrote: "I know you're busy but I need your help as I have never set anything like this up before and I know you have."

It was hand delivered one of Sir Kenneth's entourage by prior arrangement with Film Hub NI during a previous visit to Belfast.

However, with the Thor director back home today to officially be made a Freeman of the City of Belfast at the Ulster Hall, Annabelle is planning to appeal to him face-to-face.

"Annabelle said to me this morning when I dropped her off at school `Actually I want to have a word with him'," her father John Junk said.

"We have tickets to the event and have been talking to some people so we're hoping she'll be able to speak directly to him as there is a chance that he didn't get her letter.

"I'm so proud of her. She wrote the letter herself and if you look you can see that she signs it Oscar nominee 2036. She's a young girl with dreams who wants someone to help her with her dreams."

Mr Junk, who grew up just doors from Sir Kenneth's boyhood home and runs the community bookstore `Belfast Books' on York Road, said there is an appetite in the area for bringing in "the kind of culture you pay for" rather than focusing solely on Northern Ireland traditions.

"It's about normalisation not gentrification," he said.

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