Belfast’s Interface Diaries

Published Friday, 03 August 2012
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They stared wide-eyed into a computer screen - facing 'the other community' for the first time - asking questions they'd never uttered before - hearing answers that would change their lives ...

Interface Diaries is a below-the-surface north Belfast story; a project which brings groups of teenagers from across divides into direct contact.

I love its concept - that idea of creating space for young people to ask the uncomfortable questions of each other.

And I love that it was piloted in north Belfast - a place all too familiar with stand-offs, protests and interface riots.

Via this initiative, no subject was off limits for the teenagers - no sectarian taboo left untouched.

Set up by Californian film-maker Will Maloney, with support from Lamb Films, the project has seen groups of young people from Ardoyne Youth Providers Forum and the Shankill Area Project face each other by facing into a camera. Then after 8 weeks, they get to meet face to face.

For teenagers like Daniel from the Shankill the project has been life-altering. Before, Ardoyne was always the other side of the road that was off-limits ... And after?

"I can honestly say the group changed my life. It's given me the chance to meet new friends, change the way our communities think of each other and let everyone know there is a chance to move forward."

This vibe was mirrored by 17-year-old Cory from Ardoyne - whose attitudes had been tainted by the conflict which was all too familiar on his home turf ... And after the project?

"I joined Interface Diaries because I wanted to get to know more about the other side, people I've never met. It's showed me we really are the same in most ways and it's all in your head!"

And for Will Maloney, testimonies like this are the motivation that drives Interface Diaries. He's keen to expand it to other interface communities across Belfast.

"It's like opening little windows within these communities... and it is just so important that these little windows continue to be opened."

© UTV News
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2 Comments
mary emerson in South Carolina, USA wrote (621 days ago):
It's an inspired and inspiring idea.... with possibilities all over the world. One of the better computer ideas I've heard of... 'what the world needs now'. . .
Duckie in Belfast wrote (623 days ago):
I admire this wonderful piece of cross-community work - and congratulations on its success - however, it highlights 2 things for me the first is that there continues to be a need for this type of contact - the issues of division that are a legacy of the Troubles still remain. Bitterness and hatred is as strong as ever, raising its ugly head for the world to see every summer and on other occasions when dissident actions hit the headlines. The persisting problems are obvious to those who live their daily lives in the shadows of peace walls and within the confines of segregated communities. Communities that are identified by the flags they fly and the symbols that adorn their walls, remnants of a past each community holds dear which continues to divide and separate. The second thing that the piece highlights for me is the Government has withdrawn all funding for projects that could address the issues that divide and serve to enhance the peaceful future of our country - why do they bury their heads in the sand by ignoring the problems - they won't go away. So many community relations projects have closed or are struggling to raise funds to carry out this vital work. Many organisations who have built up an expertise over 40 or more years have fallen by the wayside - this expertise and experience can never be replaced. I'm not sure where Mr Maloney got funding from for his project but I wish him continued success but piecemeal projects are a drop in the ocean - we need a concerted and joined up approach to dealing with these issues - lets call upon the Government to review their strategy and reconsider how they deal with sectarianism before its too late and we slip over the precipice into another era of violence. Beautifully written piece Ms Hill
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Judith Hill
Judith Hill

Judith has worked for UTV since 2008.

After studying a postgrad in newspaper journalism with the University of Ulster she worked in local radio, including the Q Radio Group, for three years.

She is passionate about news & communication, loves to travel (when feasible!), enjoys story-writing, going to gigs & spending time with friends & family.

One of her favourite quotes comes from Donald Miller: "Life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone."

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