Kabosh 20 at Belfast Festival

Artistic director Paula McFetridge on exploring the legacy of the 1994 ceasefire with performance piece and website

20 is a multi-facetted artistic response to the 20th anniversary of the first IRA ceasefire in 1994.

The ceasefire was an important moment in our collective history that started a new wave of positive possibility for our society as a whole. Yet it was an event arguably celebrated by the international community more than the local – an announcement we never believed was possible.

Over the years, the ceasefires have faltered on several occasions and Northern Ireland has survived in a state of precariousness ever since. Over the past 20 years, however, there have been many positive changes to come out of the ceasefire, including the simple fact that fewer citizens are dying in Northern Ireland as a result of sectarian violence.

Today, however, we have other concerns. For example, more people have died by suicide since 1994 than perished over the course of the Troubles; racial attacks in Northern Ireland have increased 50% in the last year alone; and, on average, five people die each year as result of domestic abuse.

Northern Ireland’s labour market and poverty rates have deteriorated in the last five years, and as a society we are continuing to tackle longstanding issues of mental health and community division. Welfare reforms are likely to exacerbate these problems. What price was ‘peace’?

With 20, Kabosh Theatre Company – in place to commission new site-specific work – offers an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, if any distance at all. What type of society are we offering to our new citizens and future generations? If we continue to destabilise the cultural health of our society, it will surely become increasingly fragmented...

20 is a three-tiered project. Firstly, Kabosh commissioned a 20-minute piece of orchestrated music from Belfast-based composer, Conor Mitchell, in response to the IRA ceasefire. It was performed by 20 local musicians of different ages outside the gates of Belfast City Hall at 12pm on September 1, 2014, marking exactly 20 years since the first ceasefire.

Secondly, as part of the 2014 Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's, which runs until November 1, Kabosh has produced an installation in the dome of Victoria Square shopping centre, one of the only public viewpoints in our city where anyone can get a full panoramic view of Belfast.

This free individual experience takes place at 10am every day of the festival, and will allow audience members to listen to the commissioned Mitchell score, observe artist Lesley Cherry’s complementary installation and interact with a Kabosh actor, a performative element written by actor and writer, Vincent Higgins.

The actor offers each audience member a new vision for Belfast 2034 while they look out onto our city in 2014. This new utopia comes at a price, but is it too high?

The third and final element of the project is a dedicated website, 20Belfast.com, where audience members and members of the public can leave responses to the music, installation and the events of 1994. After all, it is important that we all have a moment to reflect on the past, so we can actively engage with the present and drive forward with informed, fresh eyes.

The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's continues in various venues until November 1.