From left: Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, Professor Tracy Ireland, University of Canberra and Professor Justin Magee, Research Director, Ulster University
Thursday 20 April 2023

A new book launched today (Thursday, 20 April) at Ulster University, exploring the role of art, creativity and culture in helping navigate provocative and divisive issues in our communities.

The new publication, Difficult Conversations, is the result of a partnership between the British Council, Ulster University and the University of Canberra, covering challenging themes including gender-based violence, colonialism, conflict and the destruction of culture.

The volume brings together visual artists, poets, performance artists and cultural researchers, with contributors including Professor Brandon Hamber, from the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) at Ulster University, Barkindji writer and poet Dr Paul Collis, Roberta Bacic, Chilean human rights advocate and researcher, and Canadian poet Kathleen McCracken. It also includes two paintings by Belfast artist Louise Wallace - ‘Midnight Feast’ and ‘Golden Delicious’ - based on the gardens of housing estates in west Belfast in the 1960s and 1970s.

The book is the result of a symposium that took place in March 2022 online and in Canberra, as part of the UK-Australia Season. It now launches as part of a series of arts events organised by both the British Council and Ulster University to mark the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking about Difficult Conversations was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland. He said: “We’re delighted to be able to launch Difficult Conversations with Ulster University and the University of Canberra to mark the anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The book captures a range of voices and perspectives, reflecting on the role of arts and culture in our communities. The essays address many difficult and divisive moments in recent history, but we hope they can inspire us to think differently about injustice and inequality in our societies.”

Cian Smyth, Ulster Presents Programme Manager, Ulster University said: “Difficult conversations is what we all need to have, as citizens about complex social topics that can cause division. This publication is an attempt by our artists and researcher to provoke such conversations around what can be difficult subjects for some, and it is a vital example of why artists are essential to our society to help us navigate some of these very human concerns.”

Difficult Conversations launched at Ulster University this afternoon, with an opening by Dr Colin Davidson, Chancellor, Ulster University, Kate Ewart-Biggs, Deputy Chief Executive, British Council, and Professor Tracy Ireland, University of Canberra. It also featured a poetry reading by Dr Kathleen McCracken and a panel discussion moderated by Professor Paul Seawright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Ulster University.

The full publication can now be viewed online:

To Find out more about the collaboration, visit the Difficult Conversations website which features a range talks and discussions with leading Northern Ireland and Australian artists and academics -

Difficult Conversations is part of a week-long international arts and culture programme by the British Council to mark the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It continues the British Council’s work, building connection, understanding and trust between people in the UK and overseas through arts, education and English language teaching. To find out more about their work in Northern Ireland visit or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Notes to Editor

For media enquiries, please contact:

Claire McAuley, British Council: +44 (0)7542268752 E:

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-22 we reached 650 million people.