Book launch marks final chapter in creative writing course for local groups

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A number of groups from across the borough, who successfully completed a six-session creative writing course aimed at building positive relations, received rapturous applause when they gathered at the Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown last week to mark the launch of ‘Once Alien Here’ containing a collection of their poems, stories and scripts.

Supported by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s PEACE IV Programme and delivered in partnership with the John Hewitt Society, the course enabled over 50 people of all ages, beliefs and backgrounds to come together and explore issues of identity and cultural belonging through the written word.

The PEACE IV Programme is an EU funded initiative designed to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region.

Groups participating in the course came from Chrysalis Women’s Centre (Craigavon); Drumcree Community Centre (Portadown); People 1st (Portadown); Lurgan Library,  Petty Sessions Café (Poyntzpass); Portadown Library; and Tommy Makem Arts and Community Centre (Keady).

At each weekly session participants, most of whom were new to creative writing, were encouraged to pen personal accounts on a range of topics such as growing up, childhood games, working life, their community and diversity.

Speaking about the course, PEACE IV Programme Manager John Devaney, said:

“This course has been an unbridled success as participants were able to forge new friendships and learn more about each other’s cultures through self-exploration and self-expression. This book will serve as a lasting memento to all involved. Well done to everyone – especially the authors of quality works chronicled in this book and to everyone who showed commitment to the course.” 

Chair of the John Hewitt Society, Tony Kennedy, added:

“Creative writing has proven to be a powerful medium in bringing people together to engage with one another, build trust and mutual respect, as well as gain a greater appreciation of each other’s diverse backgrounds. Through this course, we have eroded pre-conceived ideas and dismantled prejudices.”

Over the past 30 years, the John Hewitt Society has developed a range of literary and cultural activities to break down parochialism, narrow, exclusive concepts of identity, and hostility towards one another.

Its cross-community creative writing programme ‘Once Alien Here’ has helped communities in Northern Ireland to build skills and confidence, and explore conflict and division with a view to encouraging mutual understanding and respect.

This course was facilitated by Beam Creative Network.

The Council’s Peace IV Programme continues to support a number of projects, initiatives and events across three themes of Children and Young People, Shared Spaces and Services, and Building Positive Relations.