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New anthology tells the personal experiences of interface residents

Published on:  25 Jun 2018

Residents from the Lower Oldpark and Cliftonville areas of North Belfast have shared, for the first time, their experiences living next to physical divisions in a new book launched today by the Imagine Peace Walls Project.

‘The Peace Walls: An Oral History’ captures the personal stories of residents who lived in the areas for thirty years or more. The research and development of the publication was undertaken by the cross-community Imagine Project, with support from the International Fund for Ireland, as part of its wider efforts to engage people in a new dialogue about interface barriers.

Participants volunteered to anonymously share their memories of the changes witnessed over four decades as communities were pulled apart by sectarianism, violence and the erection of security barriers. The poignant stories reflect the mix of complex emotions that residents felt as friendships, families and neighbourhoods were separated indefinitely.

In the last year, the Imagine Project also published a survey on the views of more than 200 residents who would be most impacted by potential changes to the barriers. Two-thirds (66%) of all respondents said they would like to see change in the lifetime of their children or grandchildren.

Sarah Lorimer, Coordinator of the Imagine Peace Walls Project, said:
“The aim of the oral history project was to record and present to wider society the lived experiences of local people living by the peace walls. How communities adapted to their presence, and the impact the walls had on their lives, their families and their area.

“This project is about recognising the importance of capturing local history and giving those who live in interface communities more involvement in the narrative around the history and future of the walls. In doing so, residents living by the Peace Walls, can reclaim a significant part of their personal history and create a community archive of the history of their area. We are grateful for the interviewees’ time and honesty in sharing their personal and often difficult experiences.”

Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland Board Member, said:
“If the barriers and interfaces could talk you would hear stories of trauma, tragedy, segregation and resilience. But you would also hear how society has failed to address the wider issues of marginalisation and deprivation that fuelled violence and mistrust in these areas over multiple generations.

“This anthology of deeply personal stories compiled by the Imagine Project is timely and comes as many communities are beginning to voice bold new opinions on the future of the physical divisions. Attitudes are changing but for communities to agree to the reduction, declassification or removal of Peace Walls, their concerns must be prioritised and met in full by tangible action from relevant statutory authorities.”

To request a copy of ‘The Peace Walls: An Oral History’ contact the Imagine Project on 028 9035 1334 or 028 9074 9147. Or click here to download a PDF


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