Creative Connections is an arts-based project using creative processes of theatre, film and new digital technologies to promote reconciliation and positive community relations between people and traditions in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland today.
The project was implemented by Smashing Times in partnership with CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet), the University of Ulster INCORE International Conflict Research Institute, and in association with four participant groups: Down GAA, Ballybeen Women’s Centre, Old Warren Association and the UDR Association, Portadown.
Arts-based workshops took place with our four participant groups, conducted by Dr Stephen Herron and artist Fiona Bawn-Thompson, using elements of a unique theatre performance based on women’s stories of WWII as a catalyst to explore the impact of war in the past and to generate discussion on key issues facing communities today as a result of a legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland.
The project culminated in a one-day Creative Arts, Human Rights and Peace Symposium in Northern Ireland to celebrate the role of the arts in promoting equality, human rights and positive community relations. The symposium, took place on 17 October, 10am, in the Island Arts Centre, Lisbon featured a performance of The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WWII by Mary Moynihan, Fiona Bawn Thompson and Paul Kennedy, alongside workshops and presentations with the artists and invited guest speakers.
The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of WWII is a creative reimagining of moments from the lives of women during WWII, recalling stories of bravery, sacrifice and love amidst the horror of war, as women stood up against fascism and totalitarianism and refused to accept oppression. Women’s stories in the performance include Mary Elmes (1908-2002), a Cork woman who was the first Irish person honoured as ‘Righteous Among Nations’ for her work saving Jewish children from the Nazi gas chambers during World War II; Ettie Steinberg (1914-42) the only female Jewish Irish citizen known to have been murdered in Auschwitz; Marta Hillers (1911-2001) from Germany who wrote her autobiography Eine Frau in Berlin (A Woman in Berlin) under the name ‘Anonyma’ (Anonymous), detailing her experiences of the last days of WWII as she and over one million other women were raped and abused by Allied soldiers of the Red Army; Neus Català Pallejà (1915-2019) from Spain, a member of the United Socialist Party of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, an active collaborator with the French Resistance during WWII and up until very recently the only living Spanish survivor of Ravensbrück concentration camp for women; Maria Eugenia Jasińska (1906-43) from Łódź in Poland who worked for the resistance and gave up her own life rather than ‘name names’; and Dolores Ibárruri, or La Pasionaria (1895-1989), from Spain, a revolutionary leader, political activist, Communist and crusader against Fascism during the Spanish Civil War who created the famous cry ‘They Shall Not Pass’.
Diverse communities are inspired by powerful women’s stories from WWII and come together from a cross-border and inter-community perspective to share their own stories and to explore solutions for reconciliation and the development of a genuinely integrated society. A key aim is to explore how to acknowledge the experiences of diverse groups and to identify collective shared solutions for a rights-based society and the promotion of tolerance and respect for different cultures into the future.
The symposium was attended by a diverse audience of participants including the four partner groups and groups from the two main traditions in Northern Ireland and ethnic minority communities including an ex-Republican and Loyalist prisoner’s group, ex-service personnel, hard to reach youth and community groups, second level schools, ethnic minority groups, youth and women’s groups.
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