Inside the World of Imagined Spaces

 Paul Hutchinson is Belfast's Renaissance Man, says Kirsten Kearney

Belfast's Paul Hutchinson is a man of many talents. As well as making films, Paul is a writer and performer, taking creativity and compassion into some of NI's most conflicted situations.

Paul is a wearer of many hats. With a professional background in psychology, counselling and mediation, he set up Imagined Spaces, a company specialising in creative community relations.

'People can often overlook the power of the imagination when working through the complexity of communal conflict.

'I encourage people to reflect creatively on their lives in two ways: to recognise who they are, and then to do a double-take, perhaps seeing new aspects to their lives.'

Child with balloonHutchinson has extensive experience working with NI's travelling community, Parading Traditions and the Ulster Museum.

Since 2003 he has worked with Black and Minority Ethnic groups in England, exploring creative approaches to community relations.

Closer to home, Paul has received the Arts Council NI Artist in the Community award for East Belfast (2004).

This culminated in the Roadspeak programme, a mixture of video and film installations, along with poetry and chalk graffitti art along the lower Newtownards Road. He then received the Individual Artist Award in 2005.

Paul's poem 'Fire in the Face', from forthcoming collection I-Prod, discusses the bonfire season within the Protestant communities of Belfast:

The keepers of the flame break ranks,
hush the crowd with their movement
out of the circle facing the wood.

Two men of reputation and standing,
they stumble to the base of the tower,
each carrying their burden: a slurping container of precious petrol.

An accompanying film installation, Transmission, focuses on a street in east Belfast, which is struggling to find a new identity in face of the decline of shipbuilding and the lasting effects of the Troubles.

The film is a collage of experiences, dreams and memories, a transmission of aspirations aimed beyond the confines of the road.

Much of the music you hear on Paul’s films may well be his own. He is a member of StraY, a poetry and music collective whose first CD Dubh was released in 2005.

Combining poetry, song and music, the CD encapsulates Paul's open and embracing attitude to the arts.

This is reflected in the work of Thinkbucket, the artists collective Paul belongs to along with collaborators Ben Jones and Jonny McEwen.

The world of the Travellers continues to fascinate Paul with his work on travellers' traditions, past and present, bearing fruit in the multi-media exhibition opening in May 2007 at the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan, Co. Meath.