How we remember our past says a lot about what we think about the future. Over the next few months, a number of events are happening throughout Northern Ireland in an attempt to kick-start further discussion on memory, including its role in understanding difference, opening ourselves up to different points of view, and (in some fortunate cases) promoting healing.
There are of course those who think any commemoration or discussion of a violent and contested past is divisive – I am not among them. I agree that some forms of commemoration simply reinforce divisions, and I am equally turned off by Pollyanna-ish versions of the past that try and make it sound rosier than it really was. But rather than opening up that debate today, I want to give readers a sense of the range of events set for the next few weeks.
Lenten Talks at Clonard Monastery – Begins 26 Feb
These begin this evening with a talk and discussion by historian Philip Orr on ‘Interpreting the 1912 Ulster Covenant’ and continue for four weeks.
Catherwood Lecture by Rev Johnston McMaster at Edgehill – 8 March
The Centre for Contemporary Christianity’s annual lecture this year features Johnston McMaster of the Irish School of Ecumenics on ‘Signing Up to the Covenant: An Alternative Vision for the Future.’
The Centre for Contemporary Christianity’s Centenaries Drama – 1912: One Hundred Years On – Begins 9 March in Carrickfergus and tours throughout Northern Ireland
Written by Philip Orr and Alan McGuckian, both of whom have worked professionally in the creative arts, this is described as ‘a dramatic dialogue written to reflect both unionist and nationalist feelings during the Home Rule “crisis” and signing of the ‘Ulster Covenant.’ The cast is made up of professional actors. The full schedule is here.
The Clonard-Fitzroy Fellowship Group poses these questions in its promotion of the event, set for 13 March in Fitzroy Presbyterian:
- Do you believe that we should look at our history in a shared way in Ireland?
- Do you think that we should approach the ‘decade of centenaries’ with sensitivity towards our neighbour?
Everyday Objects Transformed by the Conflict Exhibition – Begins 6 March and tours throughout Northern Ireland
Healing Through Remembering’s Everyday Objects Transformed by the Conflict Exhibition begins 6 March in First Derry Presbyterian Church and travels to various venues throughout Northern Ireland.
The iconic bin lid is among the objects on display, and it also has audio-visual features including sound recordings from Radio Free Belfast.
Dawn Purvis, a board member of Healing Through Remembering, spoke about the exhibition on this morning’s Sunday Sequence. She provides some interesting information about the conception and curating of the exhibition, which borrowed the various objects from collectors and invited them to write their own descriptions.
Remembering the Future Lecture Programme Begins 8 March
The Community Relations Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund are holding a series of 10 weekly lectures covering the critical historical period between 1912-1923. The format will be symposium style with one hour for speakers and one hour discussion based on questions from the audience, and venues include the Ulster Museum and Stranmillis College.
The first lecture is 8 March by Professor Lord Paul Bew, on ‘The Burden of Our History: The Historical Background to the 1912-1923 Period.’
Doubtless there are other events happening throughout Northern Ireland – this list simply reflects my own connections and knowledge base.
Gladys is a Research Fellow in the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. She also blogs on religion and politics at www.gladysganiel.com