The Agreement. Ten Frames. Twenty Years.

There’s going to be a lot of familiar and famous talking heads, looking back pensively, giving the ‘I was there’ definitive version of ‘what really happened’ at the signing of the Good Friday Agreement twenty years ago.

We will note the wrinkles and the grey hair and we will see how they have changed, if only in their appearance.

The usual role-call will be called.

But what about artistic responses?

What might an artist create that could ever contain the complexity, horror, and sorrow of over 3600 lives lost from the armed conflict in Northern Ireland?

And what might ten artists create?

In ten locations across Belfast.

And how might we respond to these different framings, after twenty years of the Good Friday Agreement?

This was the seed idea that Susan McEwen and I began with: – what could be said that might reframe our shared past and allow us to see a flourishing way forward?

We wanted to be both ambitious and modest.

Ten artists commissioned to create new works, in ten locations across Belfast.

Just for one day.

And that’s what we have assembled for Thursday 12th April.

A bus trip. An art map. Painting. Soundscapes.  Physical Theatre. Songs. Research findings. A long poem. Digital Art. Photographs.  A film.

Just for one day.

Take three examples.

Take Leonie McDonagh, who will be performing a one-hour physical theatre piece at An Chultúrlann. Entitled Stand and Fall, the artist will see how many times she can fall and rise and fall and rise in 3600 seconds.

How much can we bear to watch?

What will be left at the end of the performance?

Of Leonie?

Of the audience?

Take a room in a disused bank. Neil Foster has set his piece Safe House in this odd, wonderful location.

Neil will be creating an immersive space filled with sound, images, and opportunities to reflect on safe and unsafe pasts, present, future.

Stay for five minutes. Stay for an hour.

Take a special performance of four songs by the incredible Ursula Burns. Her sequence, entitled Being born in Belfast, will include a song that she began twenty years ago and finished this year. How will these songs resonate in the beautiful space of St Patricks Church on the Lower Newtownards Road?

Other venues include a barge, a deconsecrated church, a hair salon, a library, acommunity café.

Other mediums include anthropological research, photography, digital art, a short film, a painting.

The tenth artwork is a specially commissioned art-map which will serve two purposes – locations of the art works and a statement about how we map our multi-storied city.

A fifty-seater bus has also been hired (now fully booked) to take participants on a journey to all of the artworks, culminating at Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church – a huge space that befits the scale of this project.

So here comes the surge of stats and anecdotes.

So here comes the celebrity story-tellers.

A 20th Anniversary

Of a Good Friday Agreement.

And Stormont is empty.

And people are waiting for a change.

How might these ten frames help us to look again at who we are, where we came from, where we might go?

We might see things differently.

Just for one day.

Perhaps for longer.

Paul Hutchinson is a mediator, film-maker, educator and writer. He specialises in creative community relations and restorative practices.

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