Broadcast journalist Stuart Bailie is in Colombia this week to discuss music and reconciliation.
Through the British Council, the former Oh Yeah CEO is taking part in a Bogota music conference to talk about the relationship between music and post-conflict.
While there, he will also discuss the role of the Oh Yeah Centre as a social enterprise since opening almost 10 years ago.
Speaking ahead of the visit Stuart said: “For me music has been incredibly important for the Northern Ireland peace process. I grew up during the punk era and listened to bands such as the Clash, who had a very strong social and political content and changed my life completely.
“People here could express themselves and think of themselves as individuals, raising ideas and questioning those in power. It put us in a really positive place and allowed us to form a community – and when we got together, we had a very radical attitude and that changed my view towards politics and to people.
“One of the most powerful songs of the time was Stiff Little Finger’s Alternative Ulster and really helped break down barriers – some of my greatest friends - from all backgrounds - I met during this time.
“More recently, as we ventured towards the peace process, the ‘Yes’ gig that U2 and Ash played at the Waterfront changed the vote, it is believed, by 2% and set things in motion. Music can be so powerful.”
For Stuart, music can also help a country heal after conflict.
He said: “Bands such as Snow Patrol and their song, ‘Take Back the City’ pushed out the idea that ‘it is now our turn, is our future, let’s do it’ and really helped Belfast come alive.
“Music isn’t a miracle worker, but it can help the peace process in Colombia too – but, of course it’s a little more complicated than Northern Ireland. Many more people have died and it’s on a scale I can’t imagine.”
While there, Stuart will also be involved in talking about the different strands of the Oh Yeah Centre, as well as getting the chance to check out local bands in the evening.
He said: “The Oh Yeah Centre does a lot of great work – from working with old people, to gender equality and our monthly family events. Our Women’s Work programme for example, empowers women and encourages them to pursue a path in a very male-dominated industry.
“I’m only there for five days so I won’t get to do much sight-seeing - but I love a music genre called Narcocorridor – which originally stems from Mexican gangs and is really big in Colombia, so it would be great to hear that! I also can’t wait to meet like-minded people from the alternative scene there as you always meet your musical soul mates – and hopefully there will be a way to collaborate in the future.”
The British Council work with artists, bands and creatives from across the world. To find out more about the work we do visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org.