Entwined Histories began in 2012 with a project to commemorate the signing of the Ulster Covenant. Following the success of this pilot, Co-operation Ireland continued the series, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the reconciliation fund, with a further seven projects.
With the same central objective throughout - working together creatively to interpret and represent the conflicted past in order to bring people together in the present - each phase has been delivered to a range of participants, although by and large to 13/14 years olds from a variety of schools, and has drawn on different episode during the decade as we progress through it.
For instance, we delivered a project on the Dublin Lockout in 2013, the beginning of the Great War in 2014, and of course, the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme in 2016.
In addition, seeking to add breadth and depth to the project content, some phases have not focused on a specific event, but have looked at the broader social, economic and political history of the period, including Belfast's shipyards, the Home Front and the lives of women.
Throughout it has been our aim not simply to deliver history lessons. Instead, we used a variety of multi-media and creative approaches to bring the period to life and to showcase participants' learning.
Film-making, drama, photography and musical theatre have all enhanced interactivity and made the project more enjoyable. We have also found that creative outlets provide the best means by which to explore and represent contentious issues and conflicted histories.
Collaboration with partners has been central in allowing us to provide this creative learning experience. They have included Cinemagic, Nerve Centre, Belfast Exposed, Philip Orr, Dan Gordon, Living Legacies 1914-1918 Research Centre at Queen’s University as well as the QUB Drama department.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
Co-operation Ireland hopes to continue with the Entwined Histories series through the coming years, from the end of WW1 to partition. Delivery of eight separate projects has delivered a lot of learning that has been used to reflect upon and shape each project as we have gone along.
Projects are evaluated through a framework with outcomes, indicators and methods of verification, including participant surveys, interviews, teacher interviews, observations and facilitator reports.
In terms of learning, it remains a challenge to find the balance between too much and too little in terms of historical content and to facilitate the young people to make the link between what happened 100 years ago and how it continues to influence attitudes and behaviours today.
A headline achievement through all projects has been the development of new relationships and friendships amongst participants. Notable as well is the individual impact on personal and skills developments, including the ability to respect other peoples’ views and a shift in openness towards the opinions and heritage of others – learning to be circumspect and enquiring when hearing historical narratives and not taking them at face value.
Corinna Crooks, email@example.com