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‘Island Voices’ lecture series to explore role of borders, culture and identity

11 September 2018

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s autumn series of free lunchtime lectures – ‘Island Voices’ – returns to the Tower Museum this September to explore the role of borders within the context of our shared cultural heritage.

As we contemplate the challenges of a new post-Brexit landscape the Island Voices lecture series offers a timely and unique opportunity to examine national, social and cultural borders.

The series entitled ‘Border Crossings – Navigating the frontiers of language, culture and identity’ begins on Thursday 20th September with the first lecture ‘Being Irish, Being British: Difference, similarity, and the work of imagining group boundaries’ to be delivered by Dr Dominic Bryan, Reader in Social Anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast and former Director of the Institute of Irish Studies. In his talk Dominic will examine the construction of group identities, the marking of ethno-national boundaries and the use of symbols and rituals in our society.

The second lecture in the series entitled ‘The Anglo-Scottish Borders and the Plantation of Ulster’ takes place on Thursday 18th October and will be delivered by Robert Bell, formerly a supervisor of the NI Political Collection at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast and author of ‘The Book of Ulster Surnames’. In his talk, Robert will explore the riding clans of the sixteenth century Scots-English border and how his study of surnames reveals that many of the skilled fighting men and those who fled persecution from the Scots-English border had a significant influence in shaping the character of the planter population in Ulster.

The third and final talk in the series entitled ‘Changing spaces: the new geographies of the Gaeltacht and Irish language networks’ takes place on Friday 30th November and will be delivered by Dr John Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Irish in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at NUI Galway. In his talk, John examines the importance of ‘space and place’ for the Irish language and its speakers – and explores why sociolinguists need to pay more attention not only to ‘space’ but to a particular conceptualisation of it, ‘relational space’, which has the potential to redefine our understandings of the current spatiality of the Irish language both within the Gaeltacht and elsewhere.

Speaking ahead of the lectures, Ronan McConnell, Education Officer at the Tower Museum said: “Island Voices offers a wonderful opportunity for people to come together to hear from a diverse range of speakers on how our heritage has shaped our cultural identities.  We therefore hope that this year’s programme will provide plenty of insight into ‘the role of borders’ within our shared heritage – helping us better reflect on the concept in our contemporary understanding of ourselves and others.”

Pól Ó Frighil, Irish Language Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, added: “This year’s Island Voices lecture series will explore the idea of ‘border crossings’ from a range of perspectives, challenging us to rethink our traditional understanding of national, cultural and linguistic identity. As we contemplate a new post-Brexit landscape it is therefore important that we reflect on our long-held beliefs about the role of borders – and examine how they have often served to create a symbolic frontier in the mind separating ‘us’ from ‘them’ and ‘ourselves’ from the ‘other’.”

The Island Voices programme is funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Good Relations Programme and delivered by Council’s Language Services in partnership with Council’s Heritage and Museum Services.

All lectures in the series are free and will take place in the Tower Museum from 1-2pm on each of the dates – lunch will also be provided. Booking for the lectures is essential – so please ensure your place by contacting the Tower Museum on 02871 372411 or email [email protected]

For further information on Island Voices 2018 visit www.derrystrabane.com/islandvoices