Interface Diaries Join Communities Through Film
'I'm starting to realise everything our daddy's told us might not be true.' Facilitator Will Maloney on bringing divided communities together through film
What is Interface Diaries?
Interface Diaries is a cross community initiative that uses video diaries to connect Catholic and Protestant teens living at interfaces areas. For four weeks during the year, two groups will go back and forth, asking each other questions on camera. After getting to know one another through the filming, they meet in person for four weeks of activity days, workshops, community tours and a residential trip.
When did the programme launch?
The programme began in the Spring of 2011 with our first young men's group from Ardoyne and the Shankill. In 2012, we had a girl's group from those same areas. This year we have worked with groups from the Shankill, Carrick Hill, Highfield, and Ballymurphy, and we look forward to working with more interface communities in Belfast and beyond. We are launching our Shankill/Carrick Hill DVD on Thursday, March 21 at 7pm at The Mac.
How do you incorporate film into the project?
The entire project is an on camera experience for the young people. They go from the video diaries to meeting one another all in front of the lens. Through the filming, we see real progress from weeks one to eight.
Do the participants take an active role in the production of the films?
The young people film the 'behind the scenes' documentary of Interface Diaries. During all the sessions, they are given hands on experience with the camera and learn a bit more about technique and process.
What has been the response from the participants post-project?
We work with plenty of teens who have never known anyone from another religion. Them befriending a Catholic or a Protestant is a huge step forward. Through the video diaries, we create a real base for friendship, so by the time they meet in person they know each other well.
We've had plenty of young men and women retain these friendships long after the cameras have been turned off. This year our groups even wanted to celebrate St Parick's Day together!
Can you recall any uplifting scenarios during the filming process?
Last year we worked with a handful of young ladies who were part of the Holy Cross dispute in 2001. Many were scarred from the experience, as they were just little girls at the time. It surprised me how bottled up their emotions had become.
Through Interface Diaries, they were able to meet the children who were across the road in 2001, and for the first time get some closure. It might sound strange, but through the dispute they were able to find a connection. I remember one girl said, 'I'm starting to realise everything our daddy's told us might not be true.'
Were you ever worried during filming?
There is always the fear of the questions during the diaries getting too aggressive. And yes, that does happen. But the key for us as facilitators is to turn an aggressive question into a human one. For example, one young person said that if a Catholic went to his school he would be a 'sorry boy'. This was an opportunity for the relationship between those two boys to go a number of ways.
But we discussed the response with the groups and the Catholic came back with, 'What if I went to your school and we became mates, but then you found out I was a Catholic? Would you still be my friend?' The boy was initially caught off guard, but gave it a real think. His response was, 'No, because I couldn't hate someone who's my friend.'
It seems that by bringing these young people together, old barriers are being eroded. Are you a supporter, therefore, of integrated education?
Absolutely. The environment people are raised and educated in dictates who they become. If you're educated around diversity, it seems pretty obvious that you will have more opportunity. You don't advance by staying in your own pocket.
How powerful a force can art be in bringing divided communities together?
Art frees your mind. It is empowering and allows people to find commonality. Art challenges you in a way that promotes a diverse and open lifestyle. It's growing in Northern Ireland, which is exciting.
What are your hopes for Interface Diaries in the future?
I want to continue to positively affect interface communities all around Northern Ireland. Interface Diaries is a model that can work with all kinds of groups, regardless of gender, race or age. Interface Diaries is a fresh approach to a community relations, and I'm looking forward to getting more questions answered.