Amazing the Space at the Maze/Long Kesh

5000 young people show their support for peace at the first ever Amazing the Space event at the Maze/Long Kesh

Amazing the Space at the Maze/Long Kesh

Amazing the Space at the Maze/Long Kesh

Today (21 September) to mark the UN International Day of Peace, 5000 young people from across Northern Ireland took part in the largest youth-led peace celebration to be held in Northern Ireland called Amazing the Space. The main event was at the Eikon Exhibition Centre, Maze/Long Kesh and there are five satellite venues in Ballymena, Magherafelt, L’Derry, Enniskillen and Bessbrook.

The Amazing The Space project was initiated by Dr. David Latimer from Derry First Presbyterian Church and it was developed by a steering group of young people from across Northern Ireland and led by Co-operation Ireland.

The event was truly driven by young people, right from the design of the brand to the selection of performances, all of which showcased the talents and abilities of our young people. Those performing included Clodagh McCullough, a young singer from Magherafelt, Ardnashee Choir, Emma Horan a performer from Lurgan, Omagh Learning Community Choir and up and coming country singer David McNamee.

Since David Latimer’s initial idea took fruition, more than 409 primary and second level schools as well as youth clubs created peace pledges that show their hope for peace in the future both at home and around the world.

During the event, a number of pupils read out their school pledges, which they then added to the especially designed Peace Pledge Tree. This 4.5 metre stainless steel sculpture, designed by renowned artist and sculptor Maurice Harron incorporates every one of the peace pledges and, like his other sculptures, is set to become an iconic piece of public art at the site.

 The event also saw messages of support for Amazing the Space from right around the globe including Kenya, Tanzania, Nepal, Indonesia, Mongolia, USA, Korea, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Brazil and many more.

One of the international speakers at the Eikon was Yasmin Kayali, from Aleppo in Syria, who runs a charity for refugees.

She said

“I am very grateful to the Amazing Spaces Conference and people in Northern Ireland for welcoming me on International Peace Day. As somebody who has seen their own city and country destroyed by war over the last five years, I am delighted to get the opportunity to come to Northern Ireland and speak about the need for peace in Syria. Northern Ireland has known conflict but has now moved to peace. It is my wish – and the wish of millions of Syrian refugees across the Middle East and Europe – that the conflict in Syria will end and that we can begin to rebuild our lives. We are very grateful for the good wishes and support of people across Northern Ireland, particularly supporters of Trócaire who generously assist Syrian refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere.”

The founder of the event Dr David Latimer spoke about the important role young people have in peace-building. He said: “Young people, with open minds, fresh ideas and positive energy are the key to a brighter future in Northern Ireland. The young have the power to forge a path of good hope that shimmers with peace and prosperity. This central idea is the catalytic touchstone of the Amazing the Space Initiative.”

The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA, Jnr. Minister Alastair Ross and Jnr. Minister Megan Fearon were in attendance and placed their own peace pledges on the tree.

The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “Today celebrates young people’s role as ambassadors for peace.  It is particularly encouraging to see so many taking part and leading the way in building a united community. 

“Our children and young people have often led the way in groundbreaking community relations initiatives. This is the spirit we see here today and it’s wonderful to have this opportunity to celebrate International Peace Day with everyone here.

“Our young people have an important voice to be heard and it is our job not only to listen but act on their contributions. Events like today help us in our journey towards a society we can all be proud of.”

Junior Minister, Alastair Ross said: “Amazing the Space is a truly worthwhile, youth-driven, initiative which provides an opportunity for young people to play their part in peace-building.

“Events like this are vital to a shared, united and reconciled society and I am delighted The Executive Office is supporting Amazing the Space through its Central Good Relations Fund.

“I thank Co-operation Ireland for its work in organising this event and for giving me the opportunity to make my own peace pledge along with the young people here today.”

Peter Sheridan, CEO of Co-operation Ireland said: “Co-operation Ireland believe that young people should be actively engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation locally and globally. Their participation is an important signal in building sustainable peace. Amazing the Space has been led by young people, they have been part of the planning and the decision making, it would not have happened without their energy and enthusiasm.”

He continued: “The event also had the valuable support of The Executive Office, Education Authority NI, Unite the Union and 5 District Councils – Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Mid Ulster District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and our partners Global Peace Foundation, Generation Global and our refreshment sponsor Coca Cola Hellenic Bottlers.

“We also are thankful to the support of the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation.”

Terence Brannigan, Chairman of the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation which owns the 347 acre site, paid tribute to the organisers of the event.

"This is a truly amazing event and an incredible testament to the vision and energy of so many young people from all over Northern Ireland. As landlords of the entire site which includes the section now occupied by the RUAS we're thrilled to see an event of this nature coming to Maze Long Kesh."

The event was streamed live around the globe and it can be viewed at http://www.eani.org.uk/about-us/amazingthespace/.  All of the peace pledges have been made into a specially commissioned eBook which can be viewed at Co-operation Ireland’s website www.cooperationireland.org