A major PEACE IV project, which has empowered thousands of people of all ages to explore the tumultuous events in Irish history during the Decade of Centenaries, is drawing to a close.
Since its launch in 2017, the Understanding the Decade of Commemorations project has engaged more than 20,000 people in the North-West to explore our past together through creative engagement programmes, fascinating exhibitions, new education resources and high profile events.
The Understanding the Decade of Commemorations project is delivered by the Nerve Centre in partnership with the Tower Museum. The project is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), match-funded by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
David Lewis, Director of Communications at the Nerve Centre, said: ‘The Understanding the Decade of Commemorations project has successfully explored many aspects of Irish history, from the First World War to the Spanish Flu pandemic to Partition. It has brought together diverse communities from both sides of the border, forging new connections and strengthening relationships through creative, cultural and community programmes.’
In 2020, the project moved to an online delivery model in response to Covid restrictions and has run digital engagement programmes in comic book design, virtual reality film-making, creative writing, and cookery, to name a few.
Gerry, a participant in the project’s A Day in the Life programme, said: ‘It’s hard to pick what I loved the most, the music, the family history, the baking … there’s just so much!
‘The programme lifted me out of the drudgery of being stuck at home, not being able to do so much. It’s been my beacon and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m sorry it’s come to an end.’
Catherine, who participated in A Day in the Life with her family, said: ‘We joined the programme during lockdown, believing it was a series of creative sessions for children, but delighted to discover that it was something we could do as a family.
‘We especially loved the music season with Paddy Nash and the genealogy one was so interesting that we hope to start gathering information for our family tree to compile for future generations. It was a great diversion away from the drudgery and monotony of lockdown!’
Highlights of the project have included two major exhibitions at the Tower Museum, multiple creative engagement programmes including a textile art collaboration with North-West Regional College students, and a cross-border art exhibition ‘Drawn from Borders’ with Artlink Fort Dunree.
Stand-out events have included historian Diarmaid Ferriter in conversation with Garrett Carr on ‘The Legacy of the Border’ and a recent ‘Dividing Ireland’ conference examining the partition of Ireland, with more than 700 people from around the world attending.
Recently the project launched two new graphic novel resources on Eoin MacNeill, a key figure during the Decade of Centenaries who was Sinn Féin MP for Londonderry City from 1918 to 1922; and Lady Lilian Spender, a well-connected diarist who was eyewitness to many events throughout the Decade including the opening of the Northern Ireland parliament in 1921.
Sue Divin, PEACE IV Programme Manager with Derry City & Strabane District Council, said: ‘The PEACE IV Board are delighted that issues from the Decade of Centenaries have been explored so creatively through this project. The project has dealt with many contentious events from 100 years ago, which sometimes evoke significant emotion, memories and debate. The creative programmes, exhibition and events have been very well-received and have helped local communities engage with new perspectives and different points of view.’