British Council will host a programme of arts events next week (April 10-13) to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.
The Peace and Beyond Arts Fringe will showcase a number of works by Northern Ireland artists and makers as well as international writers and poets as part of Peace and Beyond, a conference looking towards international models of peacebuilding.
The events will largely take place in Riddel’s Warehouse on Ann Street Belfast, a former storeroom for Musgrave Police Station at the height of the Troubles.
Highlights will include the showing of Kabosh Theatre Company’s Green & Blue, the launch and first reading of Trouble Songs; the new book by music journalist and broadcaster Stuart Bailie, an introduction to Raymond Watson’s Hands of History +20 exhibition featuring casts of the hands of the people who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement, and contemporary poetry from the Poetry Jukebox, created by Belfast-based poets Deirdre Cartmill and Maria McManus.
Kabosh’s Green & Blue will take place on Tuesday, April 10 and is set during the height of the Troubles.
The one-hour show is based on oral archives of serving RUC and An Garda Síochána Police Officers who patrolled the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and explores the isolation, pain and at times humorous elements of life experienced by the individuals.
Performed by James Doran and Vincent Higgins and directed by Paula McFetridge, the play is written by Laurence McKeown, a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who took part in the 1981 Irish hunger strike and is now an author, playwright, and screenwriter.
Speaking about the production, was Director Paula McFetridge. She said: “Green & Blue is a powerful play looking at the person behind a police uniform. Based on gathered stories from officers across Ireland who served during the conflict, it provokes a post conflict audience to consider what guardians of the peace they want.”
On the evening of April 10, Stuart Bailie will launch and read excerpts from his new book, Trouble Songs at Belfast City Hall.
The book is a reflection of the story of music and conflict in Northern Ireland since 1968 and involves over 60 interviews and conversations with the likes of Bono, Christy Moore, the Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Orbital, Kevin Rowland, Terri Hooley, the Rubberbandits, Dolores O’Riordan and the Miami Showband.
Speaking about the book, Stuart said: “I wrote Trouble Songs because I thought music was a tool for opening minds and agitating for better fixes to the conflict. It felt like an important story and the last 20 years have allowed us the distance to appreciate this. My faith in musicians remains strong; they played a significant part.”
Trouble Songs has been supported by the British Council and Bloomfield Press, and is a collaboration between the author and EastSide Arts, Belfast.
From Tuesday, April 10 until Thursday April 12, part of Raymond Watson’s Hands of History +20 will be displayed at Riddel’s Warehouse.
The project, curated by Artisann Gallery, started twenty years ago when the artist, Raymond Watson, managed to persuade nine individuals involved in crafting the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to let him take a cast of their hands. Those initial nine were: Gerry Adams, Malachi Curran, David Ervine, John Hume, Gary McMichael, Monica McWilliams, Mo Mowlam, Sean Neeson and David Trimble.
In the run-up to the 20th anniversary, Raymond has revisited this project and the exhibition will include casts of others who were influential in promoting the goals of peace, including Lord Alderdice, Seamus Mallon and Mo Mowlam.
Raymond Watson said; “The original Hands of History bronze sculpture is a unique historical document presenting the personal aspirations of the 'signatories' in the 1998 Peace Agreement. The 2018 Hands of History +20 presents at least 20 of the major international and local 'influencers' who have helped to maintain the momentum for peace and political progress.
“For me, this has been the most interesting project ever, to work with such leading international politicians, peace envoys and leading civic figures. Alongside the Hands +20 I have created an audio visual installation The Grappling Hook, exploring the controversy of the Belfast Peacewall that questions the divisions in our society.”
Poetry Jukebox, the on-street sound installation currently located outside the Crescent Arts Centre will also come to Riddel’s Warehouse in the form of takeaway micro artwork from April 10-13.
For this edition, poets Maria McManus and Deirdre Cartmill have brought together 20 poets for ‘What else…’ which marks the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement by asking questions about everything from joy and solitude, to happiness and grief to unfinished business and progress.
Speaking about ‘What else...’, Maria McManus said: “This Poetry Jukebox curation is an emotional weather report of where it is we stand as a society, twenty years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
“With poems that bear witness, notice change, pay attention to hope, to the future and to the very origins of the universe itself, the poets are sentinels, reminding us of the psychological contract we have had, and need, with each other. Peace itself is what is at stake and the making of peace is our legacy for future generations.”
This Poetry Jukebox curation, ‘What Else…’, is supported by the British Council. Poetry Jukebox is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Lotto Good Causes.
Also part of the fringe event is Transforming Long Kesh/Maze a collaborative social sculpture project presented in part as a postcard series at Riddlel’s by artists Martin Krenn and Aisling O’Beirn .
Speaking about the fringe events, British Council Director, Jonathan Stewart, said: “There is a growing recognition of the contribution of arts and culture to peacebuilding and alternative narratives, a theme which we will be picking up in a number of sessions during the conference, including a visit to the new Troubles and Beyond exhibition in the Ulster Museum.
“The Arts Fringe events build on these sessions and provide opportunities for our international delegates to interact and share experiences with the artists and their work.”
The Peace and Beyond Arts Fringe is non-ticketed. Capacity is limited - entrance will be on a first-come-first-served basis to both international delegates and members of the public.
For more information on the Peace and Beyond Arts Fringe or Peace and Beyond visit https://www.britishcouncil.org/peace-and-beyond.
You can follow the conversation on Twitter through #peaceandbeyond or through following @BCouncil_NI.