Stephanie Mitchell – “What a great event PICAS was – and very well done to all involved behind the scenes. A privilege to be part of a sizeable gathering that demonstrated such a shared value base. Many thanks”
29 November at 19:20pm
Paul Kane – “Fantastic day, already sharing emails with participants and new friends made there. Look forward to future workshops. Well done CAP team, brilliant job!”
29 November at 11:01am
The Programme For Intercultural Arts Support
The Programme for InterCultural Arts Support (PICAS) is a new CAP programme offering a range of opportunities to support the delivery of key areas of the Arts Council Intercultural Arts Strategy. The purpose of the programme is to encourage and foster initiatives in the intercultural arts arena.
The Drawing Together event held in the Ulster hall on the 28th November was the first in a series of conversations, events and processes designed to develop creative intercultural relationships, specifically this event was directed at indigenous community artists and cultural facilitators, community artists and cultural facilitators from an ethnic minority background and community groups and arts organisations working with an Intercultural approach. Participation was capped at 75 representatives from these areas of intercultural practise.
Prior to a discussion period the event was addressed by speakers whose practice was in the Intercultural arts.
Konrad Pawlaszek suggested that immigration presented a series of difficulties for migrants. One such difficulty was a loss of original identity, that young children become ashamed of their origins, that they turn away from those origins because the atmosphere in the playground is one of rejection and racism. For adults the difficulties emerge when previous artistic practice is not recognised, that there is a continual process of “starting again”, of having to prove one’s credentials. He suggested that there was a need for training, both cultural training and training in the delivery of the practise of artistic activity in a Northern Irish setting.
Sally Young, a Community Arts practitioner for over 20 years highlighted how it was often suggested that tackling social issues utilising artistic practises was foolhardy, yet in her experience the arts was an excellent vehicle for exploration when often direct dialogue proves less successful. The Wheelworks project tackled hate crime particularly racism in a community experiencing high levels of deprivation. Utilising a comic strip process, the young people created a comic strip which dis. cussed the impact of racism on various protagonists. The participants created characters which were used to articulate the ideas and activities which constituted racist attacks. Further activities included the redesign of the Northern Irish flag finding creative designs which aimed at encouraging inclusivity rather than the generation of conflict. The argument presented here was that artistic practices can be vehicles for change.
The Ballymena inter ethnic forum also aimed to address hate crime through utilising artistic practice, connecting young people with community artists, these projects existed in a an area where racist incidents were on the increase. Firstly the organisation took on the arguments both promoting the idea of welcome, that Ballymena was a welcoming place, and that articles were organised to be presented in local papers which highlighted the mix of peoples in the area. The key ideas then presented were, pride in one’s origins, pride in one’s national artistic practices but also a connection to local artistic endeavours. The forum engaged young people in a redesigning of murals project facilitated by local community artists.
Jeanette from the Annadale Haywood Residents association spoke of her community’s shift from high levels of racist attacks to a situation where there had been no racist activities reported for some time. This occurred through a transformative process of simply trying out activities. Initially an appraisal of the situation showed that Annadale Haywood residents showed a complexity in terms of needs and in terms of understanding of their own behaviour. For them, a Loyalist community, facing an influx of new migrants meant a strain on resources, a reduction in available housing for local residents and an attack on local cultural activities. There was a lack of understanding that racism lay at the root of the anger and aggression. It was required to develop avenues of engagement through encouraging activities which challenged a them and us orientation. Artistic projects such as attending the Mela, to using painting and craft activities as a mediation tool to discuss difficult subjects appears to been successful.
Arts Ekta detailed the organisation’s intercultural activities from the highly visible and well known projects, the Mela and The Festival of Colours to local community projects; the LORAG mural project, community arts in Kilkeel and Armagh, Polish paper crafts in various communities, using weaving as an expression of Irish immigration and the connectedness of this to newly arriving migrants on the island of Ireland. The speaker also raised a series of issues which emerged from the activities carried out by the Arts Ekta organisation: that there is a lack of communication in the sector, that much of the artistic activity is carried out on underlying assumptions regarding migrants which are misguided, that artists are working for wages which constitute living in poverty, that ethnic minority artists feel unrepresented and that there needs to be training programmes to deal with these questions.
Shannon Sickles from Terra Nova outlined the work of her organisation in the production of Community Theatre. The aim was to address issues relating to “third culture kids”, of people “leaving home to go home” of a situation which leads to a constant “identity crisis”. These themes were explored in theatre improvisation, in film making and in creative adaptation of modern classics like Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A series of issues were raised; the need for community artists to be able to make a living, the need to create opportunities for mentoring by artists of future generations, the need to create opportunities to deliver new intercultural works, the need to promote integration into the mainstream.
Darren Ferguson from Beyond Skin outlined his organisation’s intercultural activities highlighting that Beyond Skin was a contact point for many musicians and artists from a minority ethnic background. The organisation’s policy was to work with people, to use artistic practice to encourage and campaign for integration. Beyond Skin was also heavily involved in the WOMAD project bringing multicultural musicians, dancers and artists to areas of deprivation throughout Northern Ireland, teaching Northern Irish children skills in these disciplines.