This project focused on the First World War, and in particular the Battle of Messines. It centres on the relationship between Private John Meeke a local Orangeman from Benvarden and Major William Redmond who was a famous nationalist MP. Focusing on this unique relationship has helped to define this project.
It also encourages and develops mutual understanding as it offers opportunities for reflection, to identify differences and similarities between communities and the sacrifices made by both traditions during this time in our shared history. Part of this project also brought together young people from two neighbouring schools within the area, St Patrick’s PS, Loughguile and William Pinkerton Memorial PS, Dervock.
The project was an excellent opportunity to bring together young people from both communities, together with their families and friends to take part in this project. The schools provided a platform for engaging with the young people from different backgrounds and these also offered the young people the same educational experience which was presented in a shared history context.
The first production of the Play Reading took place in Benvarden Orange Hall, this project helped to promote the local Orange Hall as being more accessible and community friendly. The audience and invited guests represented both catholic and protestant communities.
Historically the area has always been representative of both traditions, evidenced by the old Derrykeighan graveyard which has graves representing members of the 1798 Rebellion, the two Meeke brothers (John and Samuel) and members of both communities.
Further readings of the play have taken place in the Royal British Legion, Ballymoney Branch and in The Braid Centre, Ballymena. All the cast are local volunteers, many of whom had never performed prior to the project. All performances have received great reviews and BCRC looks forward to co-facilitating further productions in the new year with the support of Causeway Coast and Glens.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
1. This project encourages and develops mutual understanding as it offers opportunities for reflection, identify differences and similarities between communities and the sacrifices made by both traditions.
2. This project encourages active learning through the medium of music, poetry and drama. It helps to create a better understanding and appreciation of identities and cultural traditions.
3. It encourages community development, capacity building and establishes further networks with other communities, including hard to reach groups who do not engage in community projects.
4. We want to help bring this story to the forefront and for it to be recognised not only within the immediate area but also further afield. The fact that Private John Meeke is buried in the local graveyard in Derrykeighan, roughly two miles outside of Dervock, will provide the main focal point for the commemoration element of this project.
5. The legacy of this project will continue in the form of the booklet and CD. The establishment of a tourist trail themed around the story and legacy of Private John Meeke will continue to engage a wider audience and provide employment opportunities for local residents who will be trained to deliver historical facts and information regarding Messines.
Projects like this that create opportunities to bring communities together and to learn together will create a better sense of community belonging as the shared history context will provide a starting point in many cases for a shared community and therefore a shared future. This project will provide an opportunity for celebrating our Cultural Diversity through a shared education and shared history platform.
Angela Mulholland, email@example.com