Life in a Box opens at Playhouse

Anthony Lynch. (0802PG09)
Anthony Lynch. (0802PG09)

There were memories and old stories galore at Derry’s Playhouse on Tuesday as a group of local men involved in an innovative reminiscence project opened their lives up to the general public.

The ‘Life in a Box’ initiative is the brainchild of the Reminiscence Network NI, and has involved 22 men from Newtownards, Omagh and Derry. All of the men spent months collecting photographs of the most important aspects of their lives and have now constructed a memory box with artefacts from key points in their lives inside.

Accompanying the memory boxes are stunning individual portraits of the men completed by artist David Cunningham. The striking portraits and memory boxes from the local men will be on display at the Playhouse until Tuesday February 12.

Speaking at the launch of the exhibition on Tuesday, Audrey Lockhart, Chairperson of the Reminiscence Network of Northern Ireland said:

“During this project for older men in Newtownards, Omagh and Derry workshops were facilitated by reminiscence facilitators and visual artists using reminiscence triggers and exercises to stimulate and recall and reflection. The words and images that the men selected to decorate their boxes reflect not only their past successes but also their lives today.

“Work on the inside of the boxes reflected aspects of their earlier days such as their jobs, the places they visited, personal interests, hobbies, important relationships and accomplishments. These things on the inside of the boxes are hidden treasures within the mens’ life histories that can’t be known or appreciated by others of they only perceive them by what’s on the outside. In other words, to really see and appreciate someone, you need to get to know them.”

Local historian and broadcaster Ken McCormick who also addressed Tuesday’s exhibition said he had been overwhelmed by the entire project.

“After many years of research and study I can say this is truly one of the most unique projects I’ve encountered. The sense of theatre and drama when you peep in through the window into these mens’ lives is fascinating. I hope this project will be taken forward and continued.

“These boxes are individual, they’re personal. History is under pressure but projects like this teach us that it is always relevant. You can’t go anywhere without knowing where you came from and I think everyone involved is to be congratulated.”

The exhibition runs at the Playhouse until Tuesday February 12. For an in depth feature on the exhibition, see Sunday’s Journal.