Programme for 10 May 2016

Common Ground hosted a one day conference at the University of Manchester on 10 May 2016 aimed at building dialogue and exploring relationships between academic researchers and communities who are the subject of research in Ireland, mainly focusing on experiences in the North and Border counties. This event was made possible through the generous support of artsmethods and the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership.

 9.30 – 10.00 am – Tea, coffee and registration.

10.00 – 11.30 am – Discussion: Northern Ireland, over researched and misunderstood?

The late JoVictims-Survivors-1hn Whyte famously observed that ‘relative to its size Northern Ireland is possibly the most heavily- researched area on earth’ with hundreds of books and thousands of articles published since the current ‘troubles’ began there in 1968. Since his seminal ‘Interpreting Northern Ireland’ was published 25 years ago, many thousands more research studies have been undertaken, books and articles written, mostly approaching Northern Ireland as a case study for understanding the causes and remedies of violent conflict.  Is there a danger that an over emphasis on understanding the region through studies of community, conflict and ‘cultural difference’ could lead to ‘stereotyping’, as the general and largely unexceptional experience of living and working in Northern Ireland tends to slip out of view? And what about the ‘researched community’? Could Northern Ireland be suffering research fatigue? And in what ways are the subjects of research able to engage with and respond to research findings? How do cultural managers and cultural practitioners manage the demands of researchers? And how does this sit within the policy framework of the cultural sector and cultural institutions?

Five speakers open the discussion with ten-minute presentations, provocations and perspectives on the theme.  Followed by an open discussion among audience and speakers, chaired by Pauline Hadaway (PGR, University of Manchester, writer and researcher and convener of The Liverpool Salon).

Panel speakers:

Sheelagh Colclough (Belfast based collaborative arts practitioner)

Dr. Chris Gilligan (Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of West Scotland)

Professor Roger Mac Ginty (Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Manchester)

Dr. Laurence McKeown (Playwright, socially engaged artist and filmmaker).

11.45 am – 12.15 pm – The Liverpool Postgraduate Journal of Irish Studies

An overview of the Liverpool Postgraduate Journal of Irish Studies presented by Co-founder, Seán Hewitt,  Doctoral Researcher at the University of Liverpool, Institute for Irish Studies.

12.30 pm – 1.30 pm – Lunch

1.45 pm – 4.00 pm – Film Screening followed by Q&A with the filmmaker

Art-life-and-conflict-690x388-1You Were Never Big on Luxuries: Art, Life and Conflict  – Manchester premier of a  documentary film that looks at how EU Peace funded projects have used the arts to deal with the legacy of conflict in the north of Ireland. The film has a specific focus on the Aftermath project, which used photography, music, and film to interact with participants in the project – victims/survivors of the conflict and those displaced by conflict. The film features interviews with artists, political activists, academics, and those tasked with providing funding for the arts. The screening was followed by a conversation between the film’s Director, Laurence McKeown, and Dr. Alison Jeffers Lecturer in Applied Theatre and Contemporary Performance, University of Manchester.

Conference Organisers

Sarah Feinstein and Pauline Hadaway are both undertaking doctoral research at the University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. Pauline’s research interest is Culture and Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. Sarah’s research has focused on the heritage management of former security sites.


Sheelagh%20Colclough%20biog%20image Sheelagh Colclough is a Belfast based multi disciplinary artist who has 15 years of experience in collaborative arts practice: arts education and engagement, production, programming and research. Her work includes: commissioned installations, facilitation, research, consultation and presentations for organisations and festivals in Ireland and Europe. She has been part of the outreach and education team for the Turner Prize 2013, Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture and for the UK Paralympic Flame Festival 2012. In recent years she has exhibited with Golden Thread and PS² galleries in Belfast and has programmed and participated in a series of collaborative practice events for Ulster University. She completed a collaborative artists residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre with The Performance Corporation, Dublin in 2015 and will be in residence with IZOLYATSIA, Ukraine in July 2016. Sheelagh is currently a board member of Blue Drum, a Dublin based community arts and cultural rights organisation. Much of her work examines the hierarchies of state sanctioned social interventions present in many community and collaborative art projects from which The Sheelagh Foundation was born; a tongue in cheek, conceptual institution adept at conducting bipartisan research and performative consultation at surprisingly reasonable rates. Sheelagh has received Arts Council of Northern Ireland awards for her work.

Chris sept-oct-2015 231

Chris Gilligan is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of the West of Scotland. His main field of research is in the broad area of nationalism, racism, sectarianism and migration. His publications include: Peace or War? Understanding the Peace Process in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Ten Years after the Agreement; Migration and Divided Societies, and The Public and the Politics of Immigration Controls.

Sean Hewitt IMG_2213Seán Hewitt
is a PhD candidate as the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool. Sean read English at Girton College, Cambridge, before moving to the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, where he gained an MA in 2014 and where he is currently studying for a PhD on the works of J.M. Synge. His research is funded by the AHRC. He is the founder and general editor of Liverpool Postgraduate Journal of Irish Studies.

IMG_0355Alison Jeffers’ research interests in theatre focus on some of the ways in which theatre and the arts are used in a wide range of settings – from theatre work with refugees and asylum seekers to community plays in major cities in Britain and Ireland. The threads that link these practices include considering the role of story and storytelling in a wide variety of performance settings, the role of participation and creativity in community-building, and questions of authority and authorship in community-based creative practices. Alison has recently published work on community plays and community consultation processes in Belfast and is working on an edited book about the community arts movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

roger.mac_gintyRoger Mac Ginty is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, and the Department of Politics, University of Manchester, where he teaches on the Peace and Conflict Studies MA programme. He edits the journal Peacebuilding (with Oliver Richmond) and is currently working on everyday indicators of peace and insecurity in four Sub Saharan countries, and on a project on the data collection by UN peacekeepers. He has published widely on international Peacebuilding, including most recently International Peacebuilding and Local Resistance (Palgrave), Everyday peace: Bottom-up and local agency in conflict-affected societies.

McKeown thumb_IMG_5862_1024-1 jpgDr Laurence McKeown is a writer, playwright, and filmmaker though sees those roles within the broader context of political activism, academia, and the role that the arts can play in both. His involvement in creative works, political education, and academia began during his period of incarceration as a political prisoner (1976-1992). Following his release from prison Laurence completed a doctoral thesis at Queen’s University, Belfast which examined the development of Irish republican prisoners’ politics and methods of organisation. His thesis was published in 2001 entitled Out of Time. In the 1990s Laurence co-wrote a feature film, H3, based on the 1981 hunger strike within the prison which he participated in (for 70 days) and during which 10 prisoners died. Laurence then began to work as a playwright, using full-length plays and bespoke theatre to explore issues concerning the legacy of the conflict in the North of Ireland. He was Coordinator of the Aftermath project, funded by the EU PEACE III programme, based in Co Louth & Newry/South Armagh 2012-2014 ( In the project Laurence used the arts (film, photography, and music) to engage with victims/survivors of the conflict and also persons displaced by the conflict in Ireland and internationally. Laurence’s most recent documentary film, ‘You were never big on luxuries: Art, Life and Conflict, was premiered at the end of April 2015 as part of the Belfast Film Festival. Laurence founded the festival in 1995 when it began as the West Belfast Film Festival before expanding to become city-wide in 2001. Laurence was Chairperson of the festival from its inception in 1995 until 2005. He remains on the board of management. Laurence is also a member of the Board of Northern Ireland Screen, the main funding body for filmmaking in Northern Ireland.