Creative writing students close final chapter with book launch

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Launch of Once Alien Here
Launch of "Once Alien Here". From left: Grace Girvan; Tony Kennedy, John Hewitt Society and Nicola Mahood, Peace IV, ABC Council.

A number of groups from across the borough, who successfully completed a six-session creative writing course aimed at building positive relations gathered at the Armagh City Hotel, Armagh 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 40 people of all ages, beliefs and backgrounds to come together and explore issues of identity and cultural belonging through the written word.

This is the third project of its kind funded under the overall Peace IV Programme in the Borough and has welcomed participants and community groups from all parts of the council area including Armagh Library, Darkley Rural Community Association, Madden Community Centre. Other groups from across the Borough joined the workshops online.

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.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Alderman Glenn Barr said:

“Participants on this course have gained new friendships and learned about one another’s cultures through self-exploration and self-expression. The book produced at the end of the course captures the commitment and talent of all involved and serves as a lasting memento of what has been achieved over the last number of weeks.”

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.

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.

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