A new archive containing many of the key artistic works produced against the backdrop of the Troubles has officially been unveiled at theUlster Museum.
The archive, which is currently being piloted within the Troubles Gallery of the Ulster Museum, contains artists’ biographies, authoritative essays, analysis, poems, film-clips, reproductions and a timeline of key events. The new digital resource has been developed in recognition of the contribution that the arts make to our understanding of the Troubles, and the impact that the conflict has had upon the arts in Northern Ireland.
Arts Council Chief Executive Roisin McDonough commented: “For thirty years, from the end of the sixties to the end of the nineties, political violence set the scene for everything that happened inNorthern Ireland, and art was no exception. Living through the dispirited and disheartened decades, it was important that artists should keep their feelings alive and stay true to their inspiration. This archive is the evidence of their having done just that. Our goal now is to build on the material we’ve been gathering and, a little further down the line, to make this unique resource available around the world through the internet.”
“80 artists are represented, covering the art forms. We have some 136 poems, including works by Carson, Longley, Paulin, McGuckian and Heaney.” Among the playwrights are Marie Jones, Martin Lynch and Daragh Carville, along with excerpts from 20 plays and historical contextualisation of the seminal plays such as Frank McGuinness’sCartheginians and Peter Sheridan’s Diary of a Hunger Striker.”
“And there are examples of 116 paintings and sculptures, including FE MacWilliam’s Woman Caught in Crossfire, Victor Sloan’s No Surrender, Rita Duffy’s painting, Kneecapping, and Joseph MacWilliam’s Drumcree Sunset.”
“In the archive you’ll also find synopses and extracts from books by Glenn Patterson, Ronan Bennett, Benedict Kiely, Deirdre Madden, Ciaran Carson, Polly Devlin and many more similarly influential writers.”
“We’ve also included 20 clips of films and television shows from the time. Watching these clips gives you an almost Proustian experience, bringing you right back to the times – the Billy
Plays with a youthful Kenneth Branagh and James Ellis on magnificent form; Contact, shot largely in green as if through night vision; and the very powerful BBC production, A Safe House.”
A collection of 13 essays has also been published as part of the project. Patricia Craig, Ciaran Carson, Stuart Bailey and Declan Long were among those asked by the Arts Council to contribute to the archive, writing on the Troubles and its impact on subjects such as literature, music and visual art.
Stuart Bailie, Chief Executive of the Oh Yeah Music Centre, whose essay is entitled Pop Music and the Conflict in N. Ireland, commented on the music that was produced during the Troubles: "Popular music and the Troubles made for a volatile mixture. It found its most intense expression during the punk era - including Stiff Little Fingers, Ruefrex and later arrivals like The Defects. But it also left a legacy on The Miami Showband and Clubsound, on troubadours like Andy White while its passing was marked by Neil Hannon's emotional Sunrise. It's quite a story."
Dr Jim McGreevy, Director of Collections and Interpretation for National Museums Northern Ireland, said, “Not surprisingly, our visitors are deeply interested in our Irish history galleries. The level of visitor engagement has been intense and the inclusion of The Troubles Archive within The Troubles gallery offers an opportunity to explore and gauge creative responses to our contemporary history. Our visitors tell us the gallery provokes deep reflection: some 85% rate its content and sensitivity as “very good” or “fairly good” and we have had constructive feedback on future development.”
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