Belfast Somme 100 was a programme of commemorative events for the 100th anniversary of the Somme in Belfast in 2016. It included events under various genres such as Arts, Community, History, Lectures and Film. The programme looked at the personalities and stories associated with the battle and mark its place in the contemporary social and political history of Northern Ireland and pre-partition Ireland.
It aimed to raise awareness of previously overlooked stories and personal connections that both the Somme and the events of 1916 have had with the broader history and development of Northern Ireland. In the context of the wider Decade of Centenaries, the centenary of the Somme was an especially significant anniversary both within Northern Ireland and more widely across Britain and Ireland.
History Hub Ulster with the input of an advisory panel chaired by Karen O’Rawe, was responsible for the creation of the programme content, with Project Manager co-ordinating and delivering the programme outputs. We worked with the Decade of Centenaries Principles, Project Guiding Principles and worked towards outcomes of Equality, Good Relations and Mutual Understanding.
With many events already happening within the community, the programme aimed to enhance these rather than clash with them. We engaged with and included key commemorative events already scheduled by organisations such as Belfast City Council, WWI NI Committee, Somme Centre, Unionist Centenary Committee, Ulster Scots Agency, 1418 NOW and Community Organisations.
We also engaged with commemorative parades and religious services and events connected to the Battle of Jutland. It complemented exhibitions and events organised by NMNI, PRONI and Libraries NI and other programmes which focused on the Easter Rising. The programme prompted and provoked people of many backgrounds to engage in the history of the Somme, linking their personal family history with the wider political history of the city.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
We surpassed all our targets. Belfast Somme 100 actively engaged with 136,390 people from across Belfast during the 141 days of the programme. The high quality and acclaimed programme was delivered on time and in budget. History Hub Ulster sourced additional partnership funding. We also encouraged £1,319 of donations to the Royal British Legion.
Belfast Somme 100 was inclusive and grass roots with full community events programmes running in the north, south, east and west of the city. We worked with 46 partners across the City. Accessibility was ensured via a high visibility programme, partnership working, and ensuring that nearly all events were free of charge.
Media Monitoring Service report shows that Belfast Somme 100 had 103 media articles with a circulation of 178,219.87 and coverage was 100% favourable. Our coverage had the equivalent advertising spend of £178,219.87. 69% of audiences came from Belfast with large numbers of people attending from Newtownabbey, Newry, Bangor, Lisburn. We were delighted to have been nominated for the Aisling Awards in the Culture and Arts category. One of our partners on Belfast Somme 100 won the award but we were honoured to be included in such a high profile ceremony.
We were also delighted that Karen O’Rawe was voted as one of Northern Ireland's Most Inspiring Women 2016. This was for her work with History Hub Ulster as Chair and as Project lead of Belfast Somme 100, chairing the Advisory Panel, amongst other things. While we encountered a number of difficulties during the project, none were unsurpassable. We would highlight our success at navigating a challenging arena, and are delighted that feedback was so positive.
Karen O’Rawe, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.historyhubulster.co.uk