Dundalk Filmmaker learns new skills to tell the stories of our past

A new programme of oral history training has begun to help local communities in border areas tell the stories of their past and sometimes troubled histories.

The oral history training is being offered as part of the Peace Process: Layers of Meaning Project; an ambitious collaboration between Queen Mary, University of London, Trinity College Dublin, and the Dundalk Institute of Technology which has been supported with €1.1 million from the EU's PEACE III programme.

Sarah McCann, Independent Documentary Filmmaker and Lecturer at Dundalk Institute of Technology, was one of a group of 27 participants who flew to Queen Mary, University of London to undertake four days of specialist training. She explained her desire to be involved in the project:

"I currently teach in various areas of creative media and work as independent documentary filmmaker. I'm interested in using my skills in the area of oral history as a way of capturing people's stories, I'm already exploring how to use previous research I carried out on the media representation of Dundalk throughout the Troubles, in a new project."

"I am also hoping to work with some of the other participants on the programme, and planning to introduce ideas of oral history and its possibilities to students in my documentary filmmaker classes."

Niamh Ní Chellaigh, a student at Dundalk Institute of Technology also took part in the programme. She said:

"I am interested in oral history as it is rich in detail and emotion. As a history and English student and I think the oral history training programme will benefit me with future history projects, capturing people's memories and experiences of key events in history. Oral History brings a period of history to life in a way that no book could, which is very powerful."

Located in the heart of multi-cultural East London, Queen Mary provided the idea base from which to explore communities in conflict and to learn from oral history projects that have been undertaken with a wide range of ethnic groups. Field trips included a visit to the Imperial War Museum and to Toynbee Hall, a world-renowned pioneer in the identification and resolution of community stresses and conflicts. The second part of the course will be held at Altnaveigh House in Newry (April 30 - May 4) and the third will take place at Dundalk Institute of Technology in September.

Project co-director Dr Anna Bryson, from Trinity College Dublin, explained:

"We believe that the final stages of any peace process must involve personal and community transformation. The aim of the training programme is to demystify the academic process involved in oral history and equip local people, interested or already involved in oral history projects, with the necessary skills and self-confidence to engage with their own past in a professional, realistic and ethical manner."

The training programme will also act as the foundation for three border-region oral history projects due to be announced. The project has also begun collecting 100 'heritage interviews' as part of a related programme that will record contributions from senior political figures, civil servants, and community and religious leaders involved in the attempts to achieve peace over the last 40 years.