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October 2020 Newsletter

PEACE IV – October 2020 Newsletter.

We won’t say it’s easy. Delivering a cross-border, cross-community contact programme, at a time when there are restrictions on border movement and tight social distancing requirements, is tough. When they met last week, the message from those delivering local PEACE IV projects was collectively ‘We’re in this together’. Or in non-pandemic local terminology, ‘Keep ‘er lit.

The Mayor, Councillor Brian Tierney addressed around 50 people in a digital conference entitled ‘Forward Thinking’ on 8th October. Solidarity buoyed the mood as projects reflected on successes and challenges towards completion of their projects by March 2021. Awareness of the likely timescale of the pandemic means that there is broad realisation that there will be no golden era at the end of the PEACE IV programme where everything is back to ‘normal’. The entire remaining programme will be delivered under some form of restrictions. ‘Remember,’ said the Mayor, ‘You are now delivering more than reconciliation projects. Your projects are delivering wellbeing. Economic investment. Hope.’

It’s true. In spite of Covid, PEACE IV Projects are still making a difference. Let’s give a round of applause to all the community workers who have kept their services going through this pandemic. It’s a different kind of front line, but it is one all the same.

Celebrate our achievements with us.

Grab the popcorn and watch our new PEACE IV video here: https://youtu.be/QyCTeq2TZy4

In September we welcomed the EU Ambassador to the UK to the city. He was very impressed to see the good work our projects are delivering in the video.

 

Recent PEACE IV Programme delivery in images:

           

Cutting the first sod at Castlederg Shared Space Project:

           

Riverine Environmental Project

 

Feature: Proud to Be / Beyond The Labels Of Me.

August. Pride Week. On the stage, pools of blue light. ‘This is the year that the world came to a halt,’ begins the narrator. ‘…Expert after expert gave theories on the impact of isolation on mental health… People living on their own. Denied human contact. Craving the simplicity of a hug… When isolation is nothing more than the everyday normality, does a disconnected world seem any different? Pull up a chair. Sit down. And let’s talk.’ The spotlight falls on different actors as the show streams live to the online audience. Eight interwoven stories illuminate the diversity of LGBTQ+ lives.

The ‘Proud To Be’ play, directed by Kieran Smyth and written by Mel Bradley, is the culmination of a cross-community, PEACE IV small grant project. Despite Covid19, it has thrived.

‘We were lucky,’ says Kieran. ‘Our participants met in February. When lockdown hit, facilitating online was new. We put in a lot of planning and tried different exercises. By the 3rd or 4th session the group developed an online chemistry. That surprised us. The virtual platform – the fact people were in their own houses – it created more self-reflection and honesty. Tuesday nights became a thing we looked forward to.’ Sat, socially distanced in the Playhouse courtyard, three participants reflect on the journey of the project. 

Through a series of workshops, participants considered cultures and identities, how people define themselves and others. ‘In Northern Ireland our structural stuff is built around two sides. What if you don’t fit that?’ says Kieran. ‘Hopefully the audience will think about labels. Hopefully they’ll see the human connection beyond them.’

The show gives voice to the message generated by the project’s twenty participants. ‘When I first read the script I must admit, I did blub a bit,’ says Jennifer. ‘For me, it’s getting the story out there. We’re human beings like everyone else. The LGBTQ+ community? Nobody gets into that Orange and Green, just their life and loves.’ ‘On stage are 3 gay men, a lesbian, a transwoman, a transman and a non-binary person,’ says Rory. ‘But it’s people at the end of the day. People are all different. Size. Looks. Politics. Labels. Questions. My role as narrator is to take all that on, explaining. Questioning whether labels are useful. Do they empower or diminish? When you give out your truth, you go beyond labels.’

The project has been powerfully intergenerational. ‘Because there’s different ages participating, you get the sense of change in society,’ says Jennifer. ‘Twenty years ago it was hard to be out. Now it’s the thing to be seen. We want to educate and inspire the future LGBTQ+ community.’ One character in the show recounts a 1980’s/90’s helpline. ‘What does that tell you? If there’s a helpline for something there’s problems…’ The performance flows skilfully through issues like adoption, giving blood, marriage, names, pronouns, HRT. ‘Sometimes I feel like there was a whole life taken from my generation.’

The project also explored conflict legacy, current issues and cross-border links including a Theatre of Witness workshop and an online cross-border workshop with Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. ‘Religion,’ says Kieran. ‘How do we acknowledge the scars that have been left?’ Going digital enabled international refugee issues to be creatively explored. ‘We spoke via zoom with an Iranian asylum seeker in Morocco,’ says Kieran. ‘Seen kissing his partner, he was jailed for his sexual orientation. He was a professor of medicine. After his partner committed suicide in prison, he burned the Koran and fled. It puts our stories into perspective.’

 

As the show ends, the narrator resumes the stage. ‘Stay curious,’ he says. ‘Ask questions and listen.’

Click here to see the show on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xehJamirIw

For further information on the local council programme contact: [email protected] or visit our website www.derrystrabane.com/Peace-IV

The PEACE IV Programme is supported by the European Union, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.