News & Events
Updated News 23rd October 2018
Beyond the Trenches
'Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices and Living Legacies of WWI '
In this latest Blog Post, Philip McDermott talks through an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project on 'Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices and Living Legacies of WW1'.
Via the Living Legacies WW1 Engagement Centre, Philip has worked closely with migrant communities in Northern Ireland on questions of identity. Their partner on this project was the North West Migrants Forum in Derry.
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Updated News 3rd August – 3rd September
‘Connecting Communities – Critical Reflections on WW1 Commemoration’
Keith Lilley - Living Legacies Engagement Centre at the Ulster Museum (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
On Friday 3rd August 2018, the Living Legacies Engagement Centre launched a new exhibition in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum (Belfast, Northern Ireland) in association with the National Museums of Northern Ireland (NMNI). The exhibit 'Connecting Communities - Critical Reflections on WW1 Commemoration' runs from the 3rd August to the 3rd September 2018 and consists of panels and information boards focusing on the research outputs of three Living Legacies-funded projects: Women & Leisure during the First World War (Newcastle University/Women's Institute), Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices & Living Legacies of World War One (Ulster University/North West Migrants Forum) and Refocusing Perspectives: Then & Now Photography of the First World War (Exeter University). Professor Keith Lilley, Director of the Living Legacies Centre and Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial at National Museums of Northern Ireland welcomed and introduced the event, after which Dr Philip McDermott (PI, Diverse Perspectives), Dr Paul Wright (RA, Women & Leisure) and Dr James Wallis (RA, Refocusing Perspectives) provided short lectures presenting each of the projects, offering a synthesis of the impacts and outputs their Living Legacies-funded projects have had. The event was well-attended with representatives from the offices of the Heritage Lottery Fund in London, senior academics from Queen's University and Ulster University, Chief Executives and Programme Directors from Libraries NI, NI Community Relations Council, the Department for Communities (NI), the Northern Ireland Public Records Office and members of local history organisations and the general public. Feedback recorded from the day included: 'Seeing varying narratives and collaborative efforts is refreshing...enriching to public discourse!', 'the detail of the projects was fascinating', 'great to see such content being held at national museum level at the Ulster Museum', and 'there is a more diverse community in Northern Ireland than I was aware of...'.
Diverse Perspectives Women & Leisure
Dr Philip McDermott
Dr Paul Wright
Dr James Wallis
HLF’s Araba Webber Dr Philip McDonald & Dr James Wallis
Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices and Living Legacies of WWI
In 2016, I was fortunate enough to engage in a conversation with Lilian Seenoi, Director of the North West Migrants Forum in Derry~Londonderry. Lilian noted, “Understanding a place and its history is vital for any migrant but we also need to look closely at the difference and, most importantly, the similarities in our experiences”. This interaction led to a joint project between Ulster University and the North West Migrants Forum funded under the Living Legacies 1914-1918 Engagement Centre to explore this very perspective through the story of World War One.
The resulting project, “Diverse Perspectives on a Global Conflict: Migrant Voices and Living Legacies of World War One”, sought to provide a platform for the wider storytelling of WW1 from the perspective of migrants living in Northern Ireland. At the same time the project aimed to provide a means through which to broaden the debate on WW1 in this region, a story which has often been framed amidst competing narratives of Britishness and Irishness – thus hiding global elements of the story.
Through the North West Migrant Forum’s membership participants from Poland, Romania, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Italy, Guyana, Cameroon, Congo, China and South Africa approached the project in order to prepare a panel exhibition telling their countries’ experiences of the conflict. Individuals attended a number of workshops and, with the help of a history/heritage facilitator, drafted a short text about the story of WW1 in their country, whilst reflecting on its contemporary legacy.
Whilst some participants were acutely aware of the impact of WWI on their own country, others were surprised when they uncovered how deeply their region had been involved. Whilst some places actively ‘remembered’ others consciously ‘forgot’ – as later stories of independence had become the most prominent acts of commemoration.
In Summer and Autumn 2017 the participants continued to work with the project team to acquire images for the exhibition which will tour Northern Ireland in 2018. The first launch event was held at the Millennium Forum in Derry~Londonderry as part of the intercultural festival and attracted more than 400 participants. Following this, the exhibition will be on display at Ulster University before touring locations in Northern Ireland.
In reflecting on the memory of WWI one participant noted the resonance of the project for a post-conflict region like Northern Ireland. She said:
“We must remember the events that helped shape today’s world. How can we understand the present if we do not know the past? Especially in a place like Northern Ireland. If we remember our shared past our children can learn about the price for division.”
Commenting on the project Lilian Seenoi noted “through this project our members have in some instances revisited histories they were aware of, whilst others have engaged with these sad stories for the first time. Projects like this are important in so many ways in that they show community organisations like ours how subjects like history and social science can help us in our own aims of promoting positive dialogue between migrants and the wider population”.
Dr Philip McDermott
Photos of Millennium Forum Showcase Event are attributed to Gerry Temple
Update 30th November 2017
During 2017, Dr Philip McDermott from Ulster University worked collaboratively with the North-West Migrants Forum in Derry/Londonderry to explore ‘Migrant Voices on the Living Legacies of World War One’.
This project facilitated two workshops in Belfast and Derry where 12 Migrants from 10 different countries explored the conflict’s legacy in the country which they left. Participants were from Italy, Ethiopia, Guyana, South Africa, China, Poland, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Romania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With the assistance of two early career scholars, Dr Magdalena Weiglhoffer and Ms Pauline Gardiner, the participants gathered information about World War One’s impact on their home region. These stories have now been drafted into a series of exhibition panels. Accompanying imagery has also been acquired from sources such as the Imperial War Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, ‘Punch’, ‘Chronical’ and the Library of Congress.
Stories indicated that the ‘social memories’ of the conflict varied from place to place. Some participants noted that WW1 commemoration was absent in their own regions even though the actual history illustrated major involvement. Very often, subsequent independence movements and a ‘deliberate forgetting’ of colonial periods had resulted in a complete absence of WW1 from national collective memory. Therefore, for some participants they were engaging in stories relating to the war for the very first time. Other participants, however, illustrated a deep awareness of the war having always considered the importance of the war’s impact within their national memory.
The material has now been collated as an exhibition which is due to tour throughout Northern Ireland in 2018 with the initial launch in Derry in later January 2018 and in Belfast during Early February 2018.
As part of our project we organised two workshops in May 2017 which assisted participants from migrant backgrounds living in Northern Ireland to explore the historical and contemporary legacies of WW1
- The first workshop was held on Saturday 13th May at North West Migrants Forum in Derry~Londonderry. Participants came from Guyana, Congo, Italy, Ethiopia, Romania and China and explored stories and legacies of WW1 in their region. For these events we were joined by two facilitators, Dr Magdalena Weiglhoffer and Ms Pauline Mitchell. Both have significant facilitation experience in the community sector and helped participants immensely in working through a series of activities designed to tease out stories of World War One in the participants’ country of origin.
- Our second workshop was held in the Horn of Africa People’s Aid NI project in Botanic Avenue, Belfast on Saturday 20th May. Again, we were joined by Pauline and Magdalena who worked with participants from Somalia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Poland.
These workshops have uncovered stories relating to various perspectives on WW1.
Issues raised include the manner in which veterans were treated in various countries (Ivory Coast), the role of woman in WW1 (Romania), the impact of the conflict in East Africa on officially neutral countries at the time (Abyssinia/Ethiopia), the role of commemoration (Guyana) and the impact of ‘forgetting’ WW1 (South Africa). These themes will be explored in more detail in an exhibition to be held in late 2017.