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Actor shares experience of swapping a life of crime for a life on the stage with prisoners in Northern Ireland

Philip Crawford, from the Lyric Theatre and Mark Holmes, Head of Activity and Regimes at Maghaberry Prison, pictured with actor Michael Balogun
Marie Louise McConville

A LONDON actor who swapped a life of crime for life on the stage has visited prisoners in Northern Ireland to talk to them about his own experience.

Michael Balogun, who is a Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) actor, served nine years in prison where he turned to acting and gained a place at the famous drama school which counts Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne among its graduates.

After gaining his degree he was cast in Macbeth at the National Theatre in London, alongside Rory Kinnear, Anne-Marie Duff and Belfast actor,

Patrick O'Kane.

During the visit to Northern Ireland, which is part of the Lyric Theatre's creative learning scheme, Michael has been taking part in workshops and discussions with student actors, as well as prisoners at Maghaberry and in Hydebank Wood College.

David Kennedy, Governor of Maghaberry Prison, said: "Michael has a very powerful story to tell and is an example of how people can change their

lives if they are determined to do so.

"He is a huge inspiration and we are delighted that he has taken time to support prisoners. He can relate to their experiences.

"Ultimately it is our role to support people to change; this has been a good step towards that."

Philip Crawford, Head of Creative Learning at the Lyric, said: "There is clear evidence to suggest that people in custody who get involved with the Arts are much less likely to re-offend. With his charisma and credibility, Michael is certain to inspire others with his remarkable story".

Michael Balogun said acting, drama and theatre had "literally changed my life".

"When I discovered what the Lyric were doing in Northern Ireland with young offenders and others I was delighted to get involved," he said.

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