PERFORMERS from Inverclyde Youth Theatre were given a warm send-off yesterday as they headed off for a history-making run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

They are the first local group in 41 years to perform at the world-renowned arts event in the Scottish capital - and they were sent on their way in style by Provost Martin Brennan.

A 28-strong team of actors, musicians and helpers will take to the stage for four performances of musical comedy, 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'.

They departed from the Beacon Arts Centre ahead of their curtain-raiser at the Doubletree by Hilton in Edinburgh last night.

The young men and women will be back on stage today at 3pm and 7.30pm, with their final performance tomorrow at 3pm.

Mr Brennan, who contributed £500 towards their fundraising campaign from the provost's fund, said: "They are an extremely talented bunch.

"It's an opportunity to put Inverclyde on the map. "Although we are a distinctively west coast authority, these young people will represent us and be great ambassadors for Inverclyde on the cultural scene in Edinburgh, which draws worldwide attention."

The group, part of Kayos Youth Theatre, enjoyed a successful run at the Beacon in October and are relishing their opportunity at the Fringe.

A fundraising campaign to make their festival dream a reality raised £6,000 thanks to support from Inverclyde Council and several local businesses, organisations and individuals.

Director Kevin Jannetts said: "We've had brilliant support. "Our kids' parents have been a great help too with fundraising events, including running a stall at the Gourock Garden Party and a night in the Greenock Celtic Club.

"The show is the one thing I'm not worried about - it's brilliant.

"I'm more concerned about the logistics of it all. "It's a lovely, heart-warming and really funny musical comedy with audience interaction."

Among the group is 19-year-old musical director Sian Campbell, from Greenock, who is thought to be the youngest MD at the festival.

She said: "Not many women do this role and certainly not at this level.

"I'm excited and nervous but I have confidence in everyone. "It's nerve-wracking going and doing it in front of an entirely different audience but it will be a whole new experience and that's what's good about it."

On the other side of the curtain will be actor Callum Laing, 17, from Inverkip, playing the role of Mitch Mahoney.

He said: "To be doing this having not even left school yet is pretty spectacular.

"Performing at the Beacon is daunting enough but doing it on stage in the capital is amazing."