Accompanying US Consul-General, Kamala Lakhdhir, I was glad to be able to attend the theatrical performance of I Once Knew A Girl, which is a production of the Theatre of Witness programme. (I encouraged the Consul-General to attend after she told me of a similar project on NPR.)
The title’s subtitle is “The Unheard Stories of Women” — on a minimalist stage six women tell their own personal stories of how living through the Troubles and its aftermath have affected them. The broadest range of political and social perspectives are covered.
All the performers — ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances — deserve the warm congratulations for their courage in sharing their stories with us.
The stories are so powerful not only because they are true and from the heart, but in the manner in which they are presented.
Here, credit is due to the Artistic Director of the Playhouse Theatre of Witness Programme, Teya Sepinuck, who I had the pleasure of meeting after the show. Her kind smile and modesty belie the brilliance of her work.
For example, one of the performers, Kathleen Gillespie, explained how after telling Teya her story — all of it — Teya returned a 6-page script to be memorised. Remember, these are not professional actors. This was a further challenging task. But Kathleen remarked — and was evidence by all in the audience — that Teya has a skill, a gift, of knowing how to work with people and have them tell their story, in their own words, in the most powerful way.
I Once Knew A Girl is the second series of the Theatre of Witness programme; the first was We Carried your Secrets, which ran last year and was discussed at last month’s ICAN conference at The Playhouse.
I hope there is a third series and that my work organisations can become a part of this.
Writer & Photographer
My interest is in efforts to address ethnonational and other identity based conflicts, appreciating the power of belief and one’s adherence to particular world views. So, while it is useful to ascertain facts, realities are influenced by traditions and customs. I seek to learn and interpret this phenomenon, by making images and storytelling — documenting events and experiences of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland and beyond. There are many stories to tell.
Co-founder and editor of Shared Future News, which reports on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. Co-founder and director of FactCheckNI, Northern Ireland’s first fact-checking service. Co-founder and secretary of FCT Belfast, a local member of the Forum for Cities in Transition, which is an international network of local government, business, and civil society representatives assisting each other with peacemaking. I also contribute to Northern Slant and Slugger O’Toole.