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Local women to showcase new archive on International Women’s Day

06 March 2018

International Women’s Day, March 8th, will be marked locally with the showcasing of a special joint project between the Tower Museum and the Unheard Voices women’s group.

The programme involved developing oral history archives of a collection of written accounts from prominent civil rights leader Bridget Bond’s personal collection. The archive documents entries in notebooks and letters she received from people in the community in need of help.

Bridget Bond was a prominent member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and Derry Housing Action Committee, and the collection forms part of the Speeches, Strikes and Struggles project led by the Tower Museum. The archive recounts the personal struggles of individuals at the time for equality, housing, justice, treatment and peace.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Learning and Engagement Officer, Speeches, Strikes and Struggles at the Tower Museum, Emma McGarrity, said the Unheard Voices group breathed life into the collection: “It was a privilege to work with the Unheard Voices group,” she said. “The women engaged with Bridget’s collection, very often making it come to life, with family connections to the people mentioned in Bridget’s notes and remarkable knowledge of places, people and events of the area.

“Some of the women had known Bridget herself and it was fascinating to hear real life accounts of what living conditions were like in the city at the inception of the civil rights movement.

“We are delighted to be celebrating International Women’s Day with the group and we look forward to continuing our friendship in the future. Plans are afoot to support a research project based on the life and work of Marlene Jefferson, the first lady mayor of the city. In this centenary year of the Representation of the People Act, it’s fitting that we celebrate the many strong female characters who had such an important role to play in the history of the city.”

Unheard Voices Women’s group is a cross-community programme developed and managed by Creggan Enterprises and funded through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Impact Programme. Through their acclaimed publication and documentary, ‘Beyond the Silence’, the women have recorded their unique stories of trauma and experiences.

Speaking about the publication, Carol Cunningham, Project Coordinator with the Unheard Voices, said: “Very often when discussing the impact of conflict we hear only the voices of men and we tend to forget that behind every man there is a mother, wife or daughter and sister who have never brought their voices to the fore. This was very often the first time these women had told their stories in any detail, even to members of their own families. It was certainly the first time they had told it to a stranger.”

During the five-week programme, the women examined original artefacts from the Bridget Bond collection and inspection of Bridget’s notebooks led to discussion about the social and housing conditions of life in the city in the later part of the 1960s. Original ordinance survey maps of the city, dating from 1968, were brought out from the museum stores. Stories were exchanged about the people and places throughout the city, some of which are no longer there, and the process created opportunities to reminisce and share experiences.

The programme was developed with the involvement of Leapfrog Communications, who facilitated training and recording sessions to develop oral history archives of some of the entries in Bridget Bond’s notebooks and letters.

The launch will take place at 12pm in the Ráth Mór Centre, Creggan, Thursday March 8th. You can listen to these letters and entries by visiting www.speechesstrikesandstruggles.com

Further details on the Speeches, Strikes and Struggles programme is available in the Tower Museum Spring/Summer programme with a series of talks and collections in focus days being hosted in the coming months.  Contact [email protected] for further details.

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