THE MEDALS ALL AROUND RESEARCH INITIATIVE (MAARI) SEEKS TO EXPLORE THE FOLLOWING QUESTION:
How can drama and theatre methods challenge the contested histories in Northern Ireland’s commemorations of the centenary of the First World War?
In the midst of the Centenary Commemorations of World War 1, and within the context of remembering the past in Northern Ireland, the project endeavours to measure the efficacy of drama based interventions in negotiating challenging and challenged narratives of Nationalist and Unionist involvement in the First World War.
MAARI is led by a group of academics and practitioners from the Drama Department in the School of Creative Arts at Queen’s University and the Creative Learning Department at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast working with a diverse range of community groups from throughout Northern Ireland. Including people from Protestant and Catholic communities, participants come from both urban and rural areas and involve young adults with Special Needs and Prisoners/Ex-Offenders.
The project aims to create a model for interaction with community groups at the grassroots level. Each community group will have ten sessions with a drama facilitator and will present the outcome of their work at a special performance at the Lyric Theatre. The programme of sessions will begin with a special performance of a condensed version of The Medal In The Drawer by Brenda Winter-Palmer. This presentation will allow the groups to experience how one individual told their story as well as demonstrate techniques which they might employ to tell theirs. Employing the skills of experienced drama facilitators, members of the community will be guided and supported in accessing the resources necessary to develop their stories and responses to the remembrance of World War 1 into coherent narratives as well as provide them with the skills to carry on similar work in the future.
Throughout this process, each community group will be visited by members of the research team who will talk to each group about their involvement in the project. Groups will be asked about their existing knowledge about World War 1and how they think their involvement in a drama project could impinge upon attitudes and opinions in their own community and within a post-conflict society as a whole.
After the performance aspect of this project is completed, each group will be revisited by the research team to evaluate the experience and discuss how the skills acquired could be utilised and developed to explore other issues. These sessions will be recorded in video and/or audio format and be used to analyse the individual community projects and interactions, as well as the overall project model.
Our research is intended to demonstrate the efficacy of this model of drama and community interaction for the activation of engagement with historical memory, as well as toward the greater cultural engagement of disadvantaged and otherwise underserved communities.