If you took a group of adults from different sides of the political divide here and told them to visit the Free Derry Museum, followed by a trip to the Apprentice Boys’ Museum, there would be more than a few eyebrows raised.
But for the group of children and young people involved in the Verbal Arts Centre Kids Kollection, it was all in a week’s work as they explored the different cultural and historical viewpoints which have shaped the city’s heritage.
In all, 45 young people from different parts of the city connected with one another and worked with professional artists Trisha Deery and Caoimhe Moyne to present their reflections on what they’d learned from the two community run museums.
The results are astonishing and on the walls of the Verbal Arts Centre, where they’ll remain until August 30, they give a very clear indication of the kind of shared future the next generation seem to be hoping for.
There’s a colourful collage where a civil rights banner sits comfortably alongside the canons from the city’s walls.
Another art piece gave the young people a chance to have their take on Free Derry Wall.
Mhairi Sutherland, Community Engagement Coordinator at the Verbal Arts Centre said the question of identity was a vital discussion point during the City of Culture celebrations.
“A lot of the young people had never been to either of the two museums and it was great to see them getting the chance to explore these local artefacts for the first time. They had great support from the artists too. The aim of the project was twofold; to support and encourage young people from across the city in learning about different community histories and symbols, and to re-interpret the past in the present using contemporary and creative approaches.
“We’re really grateful for funding from the Culture for All programme which meant that we were able to run the project free of charge to those who took part this year and my hope is that we can speak to the artists straight away with the intention of developing this project for the future. It’s about looking at these very challenging issues in a way which is accessible and child friendly.
“This telling of a new arts based story by young people living in the city today, based on the cultural materials of the past is presented through a public exhibition here at the Verbal Arts Centre, addressing both a cultural and community interface through shared and creative activities.”
For the purposes of the project, young people were divided into two groups, an aged 9-11 group and aged 11-14 group. As well as producing the artwork, young people also photographed a number of artefacts around the two museums, and were presented with their individually framed photographs at the launch in the Verbal Arts Centre on Thursday.
The launch was attended by family and friends of the young people who took part as well as the Deputy Mayor, DUP Councillor, Gary Middleton, who said:
“It’s wonderful to see that these young people obviously learned so much and produced such great work over a very short period of time. It’s great to see projects like this happening during the city’s culture year.”