Voices for the Voiceless: culture and community resistance (QUB ICRH)

QUB ICRH logoAcademic institutions seem to be making greater efforts to be more porous, encouraging their research and ideas to escape over university walls (and academic conferences and journals) and be brought to wider society for discussion.

Queen’s University’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities (ICHR) is running a five day festival in October: Celebrating the Arts and Humanities. The full programme (PDF) can be viewed on their website and includes:

At 6.30pm on Thursday 15 October, the Voices for the Voiceless: British and Irish Case Studies in Cultures of Resistance event in Cultúrlann will screen a short film before opening up the discussion to a panel and the audience about the ideas of “how communities through culture express and counter their exclusion and marginalisation”.

Ken Fero’s short film Burn about the 2011 riots in England focuses on the aftermath of the killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham and the accusations of police brutality.

Michael Pierse QUB ICRH squareI spoke to ICRH’s Dr Michael Pierse who is organising the evening. He explained that as well as the film, the Guardian “commissioned some sociological research that showed that a lot of these young people were very marginalised, they were upset with the closing of youth projects, they were being stopped and searched by police … and [the research] began to contextualise why this reaction happened”.

[The English riots and NI’s flag protests are often contrasted in terms of the differences in build-up, actions taken, police response, duration, methods of communication and outcomes. A report The Flag Dispute: Anatomy of a Protest was produced by researchers to document the NI experience, funded by the Community Relations Council and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.]

Voices For The Voiceless event poster

On the evening, filmmaker Ken Fero will be joined on a panel by Anandi Ramamurthy (author of Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements) and Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh (who has researched language, resistance and revival).

Some people have less of a voice in society and this is systematic. A recent Warwick University report on cultural value showed that people from working class values, people in marginalised contexts, people from ethnic minorities tend to have less of a say in society, and in particularly in cultural production and cultural activity. They’re less likely to be in audiences … they’ve less likely to be involved in making theatre and film and writing …

The chair of the commission who produced the report, Vicky Heywood stated:

The key message from this report is that the government and the cultural and creative industries need to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life.

Michael argues that people need “to go directly to the communities themselves” where they may find that “often these communities have used culture very effectively”. Féile an Phobail could be seen in the light of “a community that was quite vilified and demonised in the late 1980s found a way through culture to express itself and to begin to articulate itself in beyond the stereotypes, beyond the newspaper headlines, beyond the ‘tyranny of texts’ that was everywhere denouncing it”.

Michael cites the Syrian refugee crisis as another example of “an awful lot of people who are constantly told what they are but aren’t getting an opportunity to tell us who they are”.

When they’re looking for funding, cultural bodies “are often speaking to the top table and speaking to government … if you want resilient, strong cultural bodies you need to speak to your communities first – you need communities who will come out and support you, and you need communities that see the value of what you’re doing”.

Slugger will be there on the 15th to hear what the panel and the audience make of the case studies and the film. Tickets are free and you’re encouraged to reserve a seat.

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