The Monthly talks to Fiona Hughes from the Cithrâh Foundation about the “Move to the Music” project

How did you get involved with Community Arts Partnership?

It was a few years ago, around 2019, when we approached Community Arts Partnership; we had some funding for a project (it was called Little Stones) and it was inspired by a documentary looking at the lives of 4 women who had used the arts to heal from various issues, Domestic Abuse, Female Genital Mutilation and Sex Trafficking.

We had the money and we worked with CAP and the project included a graffiti artist, and women using art, we were trying to recreate what had occurred in the documentary and we had an exhibition in the Town Hall where we also screened the documentary.

You have worked quite a bit with Community Arts Partnership?

Yes, we also did the TRASH Fashion project where you work on your own fashion designs, and we had a showcase as part of that, and most recently, Sally Young rang me and asked if we would like to be part of the project with the Ulster Orchestra. We worked with the artist Anne Marie Taggart on this new project.

It really has been a bit of a journey from the initial project to what we have just done, healing from trauma to looking at ways that the women can develop and grow, and in particular build their confidence.

What does Cithrâh Foundation do as an organisation?

We deal with domestic abuse and we have an advice and drop in centre and we also have a refuge which women can come to. We offer support to anyone who has experienced domestic abuse and we have a free counselling service, advice service, educational courses, 1-1 support and drop-in centre. We also have a refuge that women/women and children can come to.

Do you feel that the arts projects you have been part of have been successful?

Yes, I can see the difference in people. There is a sense of community, that people have a place which welcomes them, and they can have a voice here.

If you are used to a situation where your voice doesn’t matter and where you are being constantly undermined and worse, women feel that they have had their sense of themselves dismantled, those women now have a place where that doesn’t happen. I feel that while what we are doing is not art therapy but it is therapeutic and it certainly does improve everyone’s wellbeing.

How did this project unfold?

Ann Marie allowed us to work on an individual level creatively and there was no sense that we had to make something which had to look a certain way. Ann Marie used various exercises to draw this out of the group. We listened to music, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and people were able to create flowing pieces of art on paper interpreting the tempo of the music.

This led to then creating sculptures individually that visually represented how they would want their own piece of music to flow. We were allowed complete ownership over our own art works.

Colin Stark from the Ulster Orchestra came and showed us how music could be added to the process so we made our own instruments and then we made some music and it wasn’t structured and we were able to add that music to the sculptures. We sort of responded to the sculptures with our music and then Anne Marie filmed what we were doing.

And this was face to face?

Yes, we had completed risk assessments for CV19 and in line with government guidelines were able to access the local Elim Church Hall. We were able to provide PPE, take people’s temperatures and we would keep socially distanced because everyone had their own table to work at. That meant we could all meet together and that helped a lot as it meant we could have that personal connection.

Do you know how the project will showcase the work as yet?

Not yet. I think it will depend on the situation with the restrictions however it may end up that we have a small showcase with the women like we did with TRASH Fashion, although we have been thinking of having an exhibition at the Ulster Museum if this would be possible.

Whatever we do, we can say that the project has worked really well for all the participants; it has made people feel valued and that they matter in their own right, and that is what matters regardless of how we end up showcasing the artworks.

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.