Entwined Histories - Parts 1-6

Entwined Histories is a cross-community project centred on the decade of centenaries.

Based on the premise that the history of Northern Ireland has multiple narratives, Entwined Histories aims to examine and compare different interpretations of our shared history, encouraging dialogue & positive remembrance.

Part 1 - The Ulster Covenant

The first in the series of projects examined the Ulster Covenant. The young participants learnt about the signing of the Ulster Covenant, preceding and subsequent events; the general political, economic & social context of 1912; and basic film-making skills (with our partner Cinemagic).

Six groups of 15 young people aged between 14-17 years, reperesentative of a cross section of young people, then produced a short film through which they stated their perspective and feelings on an important historical event. 

The climax of the project was a red carpet showcase event hosted by City Hall, Belfast, on the centenary anniversary of the signing of the Covenant.  The films were premiered and the young people were applauded by a variety of guests including Brabara Jones of DFA and the Minister for Education, John O'Dowd.  To the delight of the young people, certifictes were presented by young actor John Bell.

Part 2 - The Shipyard

The second in our series of commemoration projects followed the work done around the Ulster Covenant, focusing on the Shipyard during this significant 1912 period.  This was a historic time for the Shipyard with the launch of the Titanic and the effect of the signing of the Ulster Covenant on community relations within this working environment - a working environment that was so influential in Belfast at the time.

50 young people aged 14/15 participated, representing a cross section of schools with Belfast/Greater Belfast, engaging in drama and other active and experiential activities in order to learn about the Shipyard from the personal stories of the workers,  through to the political and social background in Belfast at the time. We were delighted to welcome Dan Gordon (The Boatyard) on board to share with the young people his knowledge of the Shipyard and expertise in drama facilitation techniques.

The final workshop drew all the strands together, facilitating the young people to make sense of all they had seen and heard and prepare them for production of a final project.  The young people were free to pick any medium they chose and the projects (including a fully costumed shipyard rap and a series of short films) were presented by the young people at a final showcase day hosted by Titanic Belfast.

Part 3 - The Dublin Lockout

In the third of the Entwined Histories Series, the theme was around labour relations in 1913 Ireland, specifically focusing on the events leading up to and resulting from the Dublin Lockout. The project looked at the working conditions of men, women and children at this time as well as the formation of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, the Irish Labour party and the Workers Union of Ireland.

The project provided an opportunity for young people to explore the history of the Dublin Docks Lockout at grass roots level and on a cross community basis, with the intention of creating an opportunity for dialogue and exchange between communities, deepening mutual understanding, broadening perspectives and strengthening relationships. 

Throughout the project, Co-operation Ireland worked in conjunction with Music Theatre for Youth to facilitate the young people in preparing a musical theatre piece that showcased their learning and knowledge gained throughout the project - a very lively event at Stranmillis theatre in November 2013!

Part 4 - Shaping Our Identity

Shaping Our Identity’ was a programme for young adults (aged 18-30) which examined the complex issue of Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) identity through a photographic lens. An interactive educational programme provided the framing for participants’ photographic projects through critically examining key episodes during the ‘decade of centenaries’, including the Home Rule Bill and the Ulster Covenant, the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising. With support from Belfast Exposed, participants gained the key skills to represent their culture and identity through the medium of photography.

This project aimed to provide people from the PUL community with an opportunity to express their identity positively. It sought to challenge both misperceptions and prejudice within PUL historical narratives and the negative perception of PUL culture and identity associated with trouble around the issues of flags and parades. Participants began to engage critically with their history, and to find new and creative ways to express themselves and their identity with pride and confidence. The project included six workshops and a field visit to Dublin.  Each workshop included a guest speaker and was followed by a field trip where participants were able to explore that week’s theme in their photography. A final exhibition event was held to showcase the participants' work at Belfast Exposed, followed by an exhibition with the Turas Irish Language programme at Skainos.

Part 5 - The War

In November 2014, we were delighted to celebrate the latest installment of our Entwined Histories project series – EH5, The War – with 80 young people from schools in NI and ROI.  Using the backdrop of the beginning of the First World War, the 2014 programme focused on the recruitment of young men from across Ireland in 1914.  The project examined their motivations and reasons for enlisting, as well as an in depth exploration of the role of propaganda, both in Ireland and abroad.  The process of interactive learning and discovery helped participants see that historical narratives are neither fixed nor single but diverse and open to influence and change.

Over the course of the 6 week project, the young people were involved in a series of educational workshops, field visits and a very busy residential.  We were very fortunate to be able to bring the history to life with a number of existing exhibitions including: the Answer the Call: First World War Postersexhibition at the Ulster Museum; the Somme Heritage Centre; the Hidden Histories of the First World War tour at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; and excerpts from Medal in the Drawer performed by our very own QUB Drama students.

Carlingford was the venue for our residential where the young people worked (very hard!) in 4 mixed groups.  The aim was to facilitate the groups to present their learning and understanding of the issues explored throughout the project through the use of multimedia.  The groups all participated in film, audio, design and drama workshops and they showcased their work via live drama performances and the screening of media edits.

Thank you to all our students who worked with such commitment and energy throughout the project, from Holy Child Community School, Ashfield Girls’ High School, Assumption Grammar School, The Wallace High School, St Patrick’s College Bearnageeha and Lagan College.  The project is greatly enriched by the dedication and enthusiasm of school staff and management, so thank you to them also!

Co-operation Ireland values partnership working and collaboration with like-minded organisations across sectors.  Our collaborations during Entwined Histories 5 have allowed us to provide a dynamic learning environment for our young people, working alongside Nerve Centre, NMNI, Somme Heritage Centre and the Living Legacies Research Centre, based at QUB.  We were particularly excited to have had on board our facilitation team, 5 creative and very enthusiastic QUB drama students – Lloyd, Stella, David, Matty and Brian, who have expertly mentored our groups throughout the process.  A special thanks to Jonathan Evershed who has devised and led this project to success.

Finally, thank you to our Entwined Histories funder, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, without whom this important work would not be possible.

Part 6 - The Home Front

In November 2015, Co-operation Ireland celebrated the 6th installment of Entwined Histories at the Brian Friel Theatre, QFT, with 80 young people, their teachers, parents and special guests.  

During the 2015 project that focused on the ‘Home Front’ on 1915, the young people worked in mixed teams throughout, forming new relationships while learning about past events, building a common understanding and breaking down preconceptions of difference and division.  They looked at the impact of the War on the lives of women, children and those in the ‘reserved occupations’, as well as those left physically and psychologically damaged, and considered the long term impact of the War on Irish society and politics.

Over the course of the project, the young people were involved in a series of educational workshops, field visits and film/drama workshop based residential, leading up to the showcase event where the groups presented dramatic scenes accompanied by film and audio from The Schoolhouse, The Shipyard, The Hospital and The Munitions Factory.  Although not all were on stage, each student had a crucial role in bringing their group production together whether it was as an actor, producer, backstage crew, director or writer.  

The success of Entwined Histories continues due to the collaborations that have been developed and nurtured throughout the series.  These relationships have allowed us to provide a dynamic learning environment for our young people, working alongside a range of creative arts and history based organisations that are like minded in joining forces to support young people to make sense of the centenary events.

Peter Sheridan, Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland said:
We were particularly excited in 2014 to begin a partnership with the Queen’s University School of Creative Arts Drama Department – the student facilitators who have mentored our groups throughout the past 2 Entwined Histories projects have brought a fresh dimension and creative energy to our facilitation team.  We were delighted that the Entwined Histories 5, The Great War project provided the case study for the Applied Drama module last semester, supported by Brenda Winter-Palmer and the Living Legacies Research Centre.  Collaboration and working in partnership are at the heart of our work and we look forward to a long lasting relationship.”

A special mention also for historian Philip Orr and the Hidden Histories tour at Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, the technical expertise of the Nerve Centre and  the encyclopedic historical knowledge and teaching talent of Jonathan Evershed.

All students worked with much commitment and energy throughout the project - from Ashfield Girls’ High School, The Wallace High School, St Patrick’s College Bearnageeha and Lagan College. Feedback from students on the project has been very positive, with participants gaining new insights into different perspectives on our shared history.  One student commented:
It has broadened my horizons to think about how lucky we are right now that we are not living in a war and it helped me see things from other people’s point of view because I would probably have just looked at in my way, the way I’ve been brought up to look at it’

The project has also been well received by parents and teachers alike.  One of our participating teachers said:
Some of the boys who would be aware of their history in terms of the First World War from [a] Nationalist Catholic background would have seen the World War as almost a dirty word… they might have thought that it was a Protestant Unionist thing to join up and then through the project they’ve realised that there was a lot of people from their own backgrounds and they hear terms like “New Lodge”, “Falls”, areas of Belfast that they are fully aware of, hearing that people joined up from those areas, and I think that hits home really well in terms of realising that the First World War is not someone else’s history, it’s their history as well.'