Our Lives, Our Legacy showcase
September 21, 2023
Our Lives, Our Legacy showcase reflects on the Troubles legacy and building bridges for UN International Day of Peace.
The Our Lives, Our Legacy project today explored the legacy of the Troubles and shared their hopes for the future in an event to mark Good Relations Week 2023 and the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
The main highlight of the exhibition at Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, was a thought-provoking video about the Agreement (coming soon to our website and YouTube).
Steph O’Rourke, deputy director of Springboard, said: “Our UN International Day of Peace event celebrates a shared future, supporting peacebuilding and the identity and traditions of two historical communities.
“These 16- to 28-year-olds, who come from areas of social economic need in Belfast, have led the project by capturing, in their video, the experiences and perspectives of their peers, and others in their communities, on life since the Agreement.
“Visitors to the exhibition are taken through a timeline leading up to the Agreement, a finale showcase of the video, speeches and a performance piece. This project is an important part of our bridge-building work and aims to show how shared events can help promote integration and build common ground across social divides.
“We are also creating a podcast and we will be visiting secondary school with the exhibits.
“We are very grateful to the Housing Executive for helping to make this exhibition possible and we hope it will help pave the way for more tension-free streets where our people can live in peace.”
Jennifer Hawthorne, NI Housing Executive’s director of housing services, said: “We are delighted to support this significant piece of work, which is part-funded by our community cohesion team who work to develop strong, positive relationships between people from different backgrounds.
“As well as exploring the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement and what it means to them, this group of young people has been given an opportunity to examine different identities and cultures and to develop personally.
“Our aim is to increase mutual understanding and create positive outcomes for them and their communities.
“Activities like these shine a light on the diverse people who live in our estates and neighbourhoods, and they are crucial to building relationships between communities deeply affected by conflict and to create shared visions and hopes for Northern Ireland in the next 25 years.”
Stephen (17), from the Shankill area of Belfast, said: “I think it’s very far-sighted of the Housing Executive to support a project like this. It is all about getting young people in communities to understand each other and work together, which leads to creating better places for us all to live in. Everyone I know wants to live in a decent area free from hassle.
“I was interested in this project because it was youth-led. It’s been a great opportunity for all of us to take charge of our own piece of work and we are proud of what we have achieved.”
Stephen added: “The Belfast-Good Friday Agreement happened before I was born. I knew a bit about it, but I’ve done some proper research for this project.
“People my age don’t know what the conditions were in the Agreement and what was meant to happen. For example, how the peace walls were supposed to come down by a certain date.
“Communities are rife with murals that remind us of our troubled past. Even if you don’t pay much attention, it’s subliminal — it’s just there.
“Projects like this let us see how far we have actually come, which gives us more hope for the future and encourages us to keep working towards a better way of doing things.
“Both sides of the community have been brought together and it’s good to see that we are all aiming for the same goal.
“My personal hope for the future is for everyone to realise we are just all human beings.”
Aoife (25), from the Falls, said: “Projects like this are so important in lots of different ways.
“Springboard has changed my life.
“I suffered from anxiety and depression. I was in a very dark place and didn’t think I’d be able to do anything normal again.
“The opportunities for training, development and confidence building that this has offered me gave me the support I needed to turn my life around.”
Aoife continued: “I like to be involved with activism and learning as much as I can, and I want to help create positive change and to particularly support local young people in the way that I’ve been helped, because it has done so much for me.
“Identity and diversity are key issues in Northern Ireland and it’s encouraging to see the Housing Executive playing its part in trying to tackle the problems around this at grassroots level.
“Its interest and support boosts people’s confidence in the organisation and lets them see they are not alone and forgotten.”
Aoife added: “I was born in the same year as the Good Friday Agreement. It’s really, really good being able to learn about it.
“The Agreement is very relevant to me today. Northern Ireland is my home and what happens here is very important to me. The Agreement was a massive thing and it’s part of my story. If it hadn’t happened, I, and other young people, just wouldn’t have the same opportunities that exist now.
“It is something that is always in the background and it’s definitely something I should know about.
“I’m grateful for this chance to learn the story behind the Agreement and how it has led to the situation we are in today.
“It’s amazing that it has brought peace. It hasn’t fixed everything, but it is a brilliant foundation for going forward.
“I want to see the politicians doing their job and working to solve the day-to-day problems that people face.
“On a more personal level, my boyfriend and I come from different sections of the community and it means a lot to me to be able to find out more about ‘the other side’.
“I’m excited for other young people to see what we have created and [I hope] it will give them plenty to think about.”