Our Peace, Our Stories

Our Peace Our Stories reflects the continued striving for a peaceful and shared society within Northern Ireland, and a journey that the Community Relations Council has been on since its inception in 1990. Collected here are examples of the projects we have funded over the last year, and the amazing organisations we have helped to build lasting peace in Northern Ireland and a shared society for all.

Our Peace Our Stories is a journey we are all on together, and we hope you will use this resource for guidance and to find examples of how to build stronger, more peaceful communities throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.

This is “Our Story” and we hope to inspire yours too.

Scroll down to explore the site, or choose a chapter title on the right-hand side to jump straight to that story.


Forward Together

Gerard Deane and Paul Gosling host a series of interviews with the objective of promoting a wider, more inclusive and engaged conversation about how we make progress and further solidify peace and create a genuinely shared and integrated society in Northern Ireland.

Forward Together is funded by a Media Grant from the Community Relations Council.

Holywell Trust is curating a discussion that is mutually respectful, forward focused and positive. The podcast considers the real challenges that Northern Ireland’s society faces in the coming years and begins to arrive at practical and honest approaches to address these.

This initiative is the result of a partnership between the Holywell Trust peace and reconciliation charity based in Derry/Londonderry, the funders, the Community Relations Council, and Slugger O’Toole.

Series 2 of the Forward Together Podcast began in April 2020, and Season 3 is now underway. The second series provides a deep dive into a range of issues facing society from dealing with the past to addressing economic inequality. The podcast is a key part of Holywell’s commitment to encouraging debate and discussion on key issues facing communities throughout Northern Ireland. All episodes are available to access from wherever you normally get your podcasts and you can listen to a sample below.

Listen to Podcast
season 1
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Season 2
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Season 3
Listen Now

The Guardians Of The Flame

The Guardians Of The Flame podcast delves deeper into the topics raised in their Northern Ireland documentary. They profile, celebrate and are inspired by peacemakers from around the world and relate their experiences back to the context here in Northern Ireland. As these stories are encountered, the podcast series seeks to further vital conversation around issues of religion, peace, reconciliation and social justice.

The Guardians Of The Flame podcasts are funded by the Community Relations Council.

Season 2 is now available to listen to now.


Making a Difference


Top 5 Media Tips


Communicating Good Relations Messages

A super-quick guide to reaching the right audience. Getting your message across is like story-telling. Using strong and memorable facts, simple straightforward language, and a powerful human interest element will make every story much more powerful and relatable.

Now that we’re covered the basics, it’s time to learn more about which techniques and platforms to use, and how best to employ them.

Mixed Media

In This Together 2021 Project – Rural Community Network

The Rural Community Network (RCN), who are core funded by the Community Relations Council, delivered a special digital project during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In This Together 2021” showcased local rural groups helping and supporting their communities. The project was led by RCN’s Charmain Jones.

“We are in uncertain times and there is much fear, confusion and frustration out in the community as the virus continues to rage and we enter a winter lockdown,” Charmain Jones said. “Messages remain: stay home, save lives and protect the NHS.”

Charmain went on to explain how the new phase of the In This Together project will provide additional help and resources. 

“We understand many groups and volunteers are looking for ways to make a difference this time around again and we thought we would share some of the brilliant work of our groups with you and help you to think about what might be possible this time around,” Charmain said. “We have also included additional information about support services that you may need.”

Building Communities Resource Centre

We’ve featured a video from Building Communities Resource Centre(BCRC) about how they’ve helped bring the community together through their outreach project.

Help and Support

Chairman highlighted the need to offer support to rural people during these difficult times brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now we are in the midst of a second major lockdown, some community groups have contacted RCN to ask what else they can do to support rural people at this time,” she said. “The In This Together archive is a good starting point for people to see what others have done and to give inspiration to others now we are in the winter period.”

The archive is a useful resource to refer groups to see what others have done for the past nine months.

Social Change Initiative

Included below are several additional resources cited by RCN for you to explore and learn the lessons from what others have been doing during the pandemic.

Social Change Initiative

The Social Change Initiative has produced a series of excellent resources on the stories from Lockdown One in March – December 2020.

Communities and Covid: Stories and lessons from grassroots activists | Social Change Initiative

RCN’s Facebook

RCN’s Facebook page continues to update members on funding opportunities, good practice and current guidelines.

Rural Community Network | Facebook

Rural Support Networks and Healthy Living Centres

All Rural Support Networks and Healthy Living Centres are working on a “Warm, Well And Connected” project which is supporting rural dwellers across rural Northern Ireland to stay connected to locally driven help and support services. 

Contact your nearest Rural Support Network or Healthy Living Centre for information.

An example is TADA Network’s page, which contains a wealth of information:

Warm, Well & Connected | TADA Support Network

Mobile data

Free mobile data increases for students without broadband or who can’t afford extra data. It includes the following providers: Smarty; EE; Tesco; Virgin Mobile; Sky Mobile; and Three. Get more info here:  

Get Help With Tech Education | Gov.uk

In this Together 2020

The initial phase of the In This Together project ran during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. You can read more about the rural groups featured here:

Mixed Media

Funding Map

The Community Relations Council administers several funding schemes. Use our map to find out more about the various projects and groups we have funded through these schemes, as well as their locations and descriptions.

Mixed Media

Ring of Steel

For over 15 years the centre of Belfast was surrounded by a perimeter of 12 foot high fences, barbed wire and concrete. Movement in and out was restricted and controlled by armed soldiers. All who entered were searched by specialist security staff.

This was a radical experiment in state-managed urban fortification, where new methods of security and surveillance were pioneered to create a unique city centre, one which has never been seen before or since in the UK and Ireland.
As the Northern Ireland conflict developed, the barriers, gates and fences separating the city centre from the rest of Belfast also changed to reflect the evolving security situation.

As the Troubles ended and peace became the new normality, the barriers slowly disappeared, leaving only shadows of their former presence.

The “Ring of Steel” project was funded through a media grant by the Community Relations Council.

Mixed Media

Sport and Creativity

Sport and Creativity Can Help Build United Communities

Sport and creativity are important ways to bridge community divides and bring young people together to form lasting relationships. This key ideal was intrinsic to the latest T:BUC Engagement Forum where practitioners delivered keynote talks from the Irish Football Association, Gaelic Athletic Association, and PeacePlayers NI. Over 150 people – Including Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Cllr Mealla Campbell and Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons – where in attendance at Armagh City Hotel on 11 February 2020 for the event Together: Building A United Community (T:BUC).

The T:BUC Engagement Forum, which runs three times per year, is organised by the Community Relations Council on behalf of The Executive Office. The Engagement Forum is an important opportunity for government to update the voluntary and community sector on T:BUC progress, as well as identifying good practice and recommendations for improved delivery. Key to this event were discussion groups and workshops focussed on using of sport as a medium for improving good relations. Sport’s reach is unrivalled. Regardless of age, gender or background – sport is enjoyed by all. It promotes universal values of co-operation, respect, and tolerance, which is why it can be utilised for effective community building and peace education.

Gareth Harper, Managing Director of Peaceplayers NI, explained:

“At PeacePlayers we use the power of sport to unite, educate and inspire young people to create a more peaceful world. The funding we receive from the Community Relations Council means we can offer sport programming, peace education, and leadership development to those living in communities in conflict. “We challenge the hate that is driven by the fear of our differences. We bridge divides between people through the game of basketball and we develop young leaders who help to change perceptions.”

T:BUC hopes to harness the power of sport to build a better community through the programmes funded under the T:BUC strategy.

PeacePlayers participants Aimee (AJ) McMinn and Rachel Madden are living proof of the power of community relations sport programming. Both teenagers presented a talk at the event. Having graduated from a PeacePlayers programme, they now deliver community relations sport programming across Belfast as sessional coaches for PeacePlayers. Now friends, AJ and Rachel first met during a PeacePlayers programme at their primary school. AJ took the opportunity to explain how she met Rachel: “You’ll never really find us in a conversation without each other or you won’t hear AJ without hearing Rachel. You won’t see AJ without seeing Rachel. We are practically inseparable, and it’s been that way really from we started PeacePlayers.” Eleven years ago PeacePlayers brought the two girls’ primary schools together. Holy Cross and Wheatfield in North Belfast were separated by a community divide, but basketball was the medium used to bridge the gap. “We went to primary schools in Belfast just across the street from each other,” AJ continued. “But we grew up in separate worlds and never crossed the road to speak. Today, simply after the opportunity to play basketball together, we’re the best of friends, forming a friendship across the divide with the help of PeacePlayers Northern Ireland.” The event was completed with a panel discussion based on the points raised during group discussions.

Keynote Talks
Mixed Media

CRC 30th Logo

During 2020, the Community Relations Council celebrated our 30th anniversary. To commemorate this special moment in our history, we created a commemorative edition of our logo, which we used throughout the year on all our communications.
Photo Gallery

Imagine! Belfast Festival

Imagine! Belfast festival was funded through the Community Relations Council’s Small Grants Scheme.

The festival brings a unique way of imagining the future of Belfast. Participants were invited to join in discussing the big issues of our times, including new ideas on politics, culture and activism. There was something for everyone in a festival programmes that attempts to navigate this volatile world.

“As a non-profit organisation, reflective of the wider community, the festival has been put together by a team of volunteers and our thanks are due to our wonderful funders, collaborators, performers, speakers, board members and advisory committee members for their generous support.”

Peter O’Neill, Festival Director

View Website
Photo Gallery

Good Relations Week Archive

Over 200 online events happened in September 2020 making this one of the largest good relations events ever

Good Relations Week 2020 took place from 14—21 September 2020 and provided a virtual showcase of online events and digital content that celebrated 30 years of peace building and cultural diversity.

The virtual programme included online workshops, Zoom lectures, online panel discussions, podcasts, digital storytelling and virtual exhibitions.

Explore the Good Relations Week digital archive below.

Photo Gallery

North Belfast Groups

– Foodbank Programme

People working together in North Belfast

Nine organisations in North Belfast have jointly co-ordinated their responses to help the community with a Foodbank Programme during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These groups are funded by the North Belfast Strategic Good Relations Programme, which is delivered in partnership by the Executive Office (TEO) and the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council (NICRC).

Volunteers worked across traditional boundaries to meet the daily needs of communities. The Programme has seen 50 volunteers deliver 10,000 Covid-19 directories, and 550 help packs provided to hostels and sheltered accommodation, as well as 200 people served daily at a North Belfast soup kitchen, and many other notable deeds.

“I’ve been in parts of North Belfast that I’d never seen before but people don’t mind where you are from when you are bringing them help.”
Key work to date
  • 50 volunteers from across North Belfast working on the Food Bank Programme.
  • Produced and delivered 10,000 Covid-19 directories of key contacts and
    information for those in need.
  • 550 packs delivered to Hostels and Sheltered Accommodation.
  • 900 Homeless Packs delivered across Belfast to date.
  • 450 Packs Delivered to those shielding with underlying health conditions.
  • 200 Served per day at a North Belfast Soup Kitchen
  • 131 Older People receiving fresh meals provided by local businesses
  • 50 Vulnerable Adults receiving 3 meals per day
  • 996 Family Food Hampers Delivered
  • 1,000 Sunflower Kits distributed as part of N Belfast in Bloom Challenge
  • Organised rubbish skips for local areas.
Organisation involved

The 9 organisations who jointly coordinated their responses to cover the whole of North Belfast and Shankill areas are:

  • The Vine Centre
  • Ligoniel Improvement Association
  • Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum
  • Ballysillan Community Forum
  • Greater Whitewell Surgery
  • Loughview Community Action partnership
  • Ardoyne Youth Enterprise
  • Intercomm
  • Upper Ardoyne Community partnership.

The groups take referrals from Elected Reps, Local Council and Sure Start amongst others.

View Website
Case Studies

IFA Football For All – 20th Anniversary

Michael Boyd of the Irish Football Association – who are core funded by CRC – was interviewed by Sky Sports for the 20th anniversary of their Football For All campaign on tackling sectarianism.
“There would be no Football For All without the support of the CRC.” – Michael Boyd

The Irish FA’s Football For All campaign focuses on tackling sectarianism at Northern Ireland international games, and for the 20th anniversary Michael Boyd took time to reflect on all that has been achieved.

Before the launch of the Football For All campaign, Michael recalled: “We were struggling to get a sponsor for the kit because the image of NI football was so bad.” Issues of sectarianism and racism in the Windsor Park stands needed to addressed and changed for the better.

Now as the IFA celebrates 20 years of the campaign, Windsor Park has a completely different feel. “It’s totally transformed,” Michael said. “Every match is sold out and families are happy to come here.”

The campaign now continues to evolve into other areas of equality and tolerance.

Case Studies

CR/CD case studies

Our CR/CD Small Grants Scheme has helped fund and support a wide range of innovative projects. We’ve developed a range of case studies to highlight the amazing work being done around Peacebuilding and Good Relations.

For example, we funded a project entitled “Little Stranger,” which explored child migration and employed the use of dance theatre with children from Dungannon. It took place in Mid Ulster District Council and was administered by Powerstone Entertainment in partnership with DU Dance (NI) and Tinderbox Theatre Company.

Take a look at the other case studies we’ve included in this section, and find out more about the CR/CD scheme below.

Case Studies

River of Hope

Good Relations Artwork and Good Mental Health

The dreams and wishes of service users and staff were displayed at the acute Mental Health In-patient Centre. The artwork, produced by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) to mark Good Relations Week 2019, depicts a river of their words and thoughts. River of Hope was created by artists Grainne Kielty and Anne Quail. Jacqueline Irwin, Community Relations Council (CRC) Chief Executive, attended the unveiling alongside Peter McNaney, HSC Trust Chair. Jacqueline highlighted CRC’s partnership with BHSCT over the last 8 years, since they first assisting them with advice developing BHSCT’s first good relations strategy: Healthy Relations for a Healthy Future.

“BHSCT was the first Trust to develop a Good Relations strategy,” Jacqueline said, “and the fact that – even with all the other responsibilities of a large Trust – they have taken the time to produce projects such as River of Hope is testament to their commitment to promoting good relations and an inclusive environment.”

Dr Cathy Jack, Belfast Trust’s Chief Executive, believes BHSCT can play a part in building a shared society based on mutual respect.

“We as a Trust are committed to the promotion of good relations between people of different religions, racial groups and political opinions,” Cathy said, “and whilst we cannot address all the ills in society, Belfast Trust, as the largest employer and provider of integrated health and social care in Northern Ireland, believe it important and incumbent upon us to play a significant role in building an inclusive and shared society based on mutual respect.”

Dr Jack highlighted that it was fitting for the River of Hope to be displayed permanently at the Mental Health Inpatient Centre.

“It seemed fitting that we permanently display this beautiful artwork here to underpin the recurring themes of hope,” Cathy explained, “and a journey in achieving and maintaining good relations and good mental health. Our River of Hope flows naturally out to the serene water features and courtyard.”

Jacqueline added: “The formal unveiling of the River of Hope artwork has brought together many people to celebrate, and recognise, the great work that is being done for mental health care at Belfast City Hospital. “During Good Relations week 2019, service users and staff of Belfast Trust came together to share their dreams and aspirations for the future. The River of Hope artwork showcases their words and sentences transformed into a beautiful artwork.

“This will be a permanent reminder that community and shared ideals will always have the capacity to make us stronger.”

Case Studies

Inspirational Local Peacemaker Receives Good Relations Award

Highlighting exceptional peacebuilding achievement throughout Northern Ireland

An inspirational local peacemaker received the Good Relations Award 2020 at an online ceremony on Wednesday 16 September. For his tireless work with Youth Link since 1991, the overall winner was Paddy White. The ceremony, held by the NI Community Relations Council (CRC), recognised 16 good relations champions, the largest number nominated in a single year since the Award’s inception in 2006. The Good Relations Award highlights exceptional achievement throughout Northern Ireland in promoting community relations, intercultural work, and peacebuilding.

Michael McGinley of The Executive Office highlighted Paddy’s significant work to date: “As the Director of Youth Link, Paddy has devoted a significant part of his life to community relations and intercultural work across Northern Ireland and the border regions.”

The Good Relations Award ceremony was hosted by Nisha Tandon OBE, director of ArtsEkta and board member of the Community Relations Council. Nisha said:

“The Community Relations Council held its first ever online Good Relations Award today. It’s clear from the large number of nominees that peacebuilding, community and good relations is thriving within local communities throughout Northern Ireland. Their work promotes trust and interdependence, challenges sectarianism, racism and violence, and supports inter-cultural relations within our increasingly diverse society.”

Also speaking at the event, Jacqueline Irwin, CEO of the Community Relations Council, said:

“With our annual Good Relations Award the Community Relations Council is committed to highlighting excellence and outstanding commitment to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. “CRC is proud to acknowledge and celebrate the huge effort undertaken to create a more peaceful and reconciled society. In particular, we celebrate the determination of people working within and across our community for peace and good relations. “It’s important to recognise the efforts of those amazing people who are working at grassroots, the tireless often unsung champions who make a real difference in the local community every single day, even during the Covid-19 crisis.”

Paddy White, Youthlinks – winner of the 2020 Good Relations Award

Highly Commendable

Three Highly Commendable Awards were also presented during the ceremony:
• Adrian Bird, Resurgam Trust
• Jahswill Emmanuel, Multi-Ethnic Sports & Cultures NI (MSCNI)
• Veronica McEneaney, Belfast Health Trust (recently retired).
Adrian has been involved peacebuilding for over 25 years, a founding member of Lisburn People’s Support Project, and won the Lisburn Castlereagh mayor’s award for Bringing Communities Together.

Jahswill created the charity MSCNI in 2016 and uses the medium of sports and multicultural activities to showcase the vibrancy of cultural diversity while promoting inclusion.

While promoting good relations within the Belfast Trust, Veronica worked on notable projects such as the River of Hope at the Acute Mental Health Inpatient Unit at Belfast City Hospital which promoted both good relations and mental health.

Read More

“I am delighted and honoured to receive this Award. I see it very much as a recognition of all that Youth Link: NI has accomplished over almost three decades,” Paddy said. “Peace building, reconciliation and good relations have always been at the heart of Youth Link’s strategy and programme. As an inter-church agency we have been in the frontline of such activity not only as Churches working together but with a range of organisations across the sector who improve relationships and work for the well-being of young people.”

Paddy White, Youth Links


Ceasefire Generation

A collaborative docuseries which explores issues facing young people in Northern Ireland today, including racism, cultural identity and legacy of The Troubles. 

Produced by LUMI and funded by a media grant from the Community Relations Council, this 6-part docuseries offers a portrayal of the attitudes, reflections, tragedies, passions and ambitions of a generation of young people born after 1998, who only know Northern Ireland in relative peace-time – The Ceasefire Generation.

The first instalment was released on QFT Player on 1 February 2021. LUMI developed this project with a neutral mind-set and a collaborative and empathetic approach, aiming to provide space to explore the issues that may prevent different communities from coming together. The outcome was a range of personal experiences exploring the emotional labours of living in post-conflict Northern Ireland.

“It’s difficult to balance those feelings of hurt from the past with really real problems that we’re having now.” Madeeha, 19, South Belfast

Drawn from interviews with 9 young people from Belfast, Omagh and Dungannon, each part of the docuseries tackles different issues. Through these conversations, recurring themes emerge beyond the binaries of Green/Orange, allowing the Ceasefire Generation to voice their opinions on issues like mental health, discuss their aspirations and explore their different experiences of growing up in Northern Ireland. With the space to explore these issues, do our similarities outweigh our differences? How do young people experience the legacy of The Troubles? What future do they wish for Northern Ireland?

“It’s difficult to balance those feelings of hurt from the past with really real problems that we’re having now.”

Madeeha, 19, South Belfast

“It was an amazing experience and am so glad that I was able to take part in something that is giving young people the ability to let their opinions and voices be heard!”

Sophie, 18, North Belfast

“All the teachers just didn’t care… They were so unsupportive it was unbelievable. Like I’ve actually kind of wanted to just go in and actually sit down and talk to them and be like, you know, you actually make me feel this way.”

Jack, 22, Dundonald

This topical docuseries is as important to parents, educators and religious leaders, as it is to young people and their peers in developing knowledge, empathy and understanding. Ceasefire Generation finally gives young people in Northern Ireland the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words. And we need to listen.

“I feel like if Northern Ireland still progresses at the rate it is now, the future could be quite bright…I feel like my generation, from what I’ve talked to other people about, has been really really accepting and that makes me really happy.”

Finn, 20, Belfast via Dungannon

“These young people, growing up in Northern Ireland, are inspiring and insightful. There is so much that can be learnt from their experiences and these films are a fantastic resource. It is vital to involve younger people in decisions about the future of society and embrace their perspectives.”

Joan Parsons, Head of QFT

“This docuseries is an important step in understanding the issues that young people are facing today on a daily basis. It’s been funded through CRC’s Media Grant scheme, which seeks to support innovative projects that explore issues of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. Find out more here about the CRC Media Grant Scheme.

Paul Jordan, Director of Finance, Community Relations Council

Cultural IdentityThe TroublesGrowing Up LGBTQ

Peace Players

“Children who play together can learn to live together”

The power of sport and community relations has helped to heal the divide in North Belfast.

In 2001 and 2002 a North Belfast primary school found itself in the news headlines. Holy Cross Girls is a Catholic primary school located in the middle of a Protestant area and school children walking to school faced daily pickets. In what was known as the Holy Cross dispute, violence and tensions escalated in Ardoyne and the wider North Belfast area.

Following the aftermath of these tensions, PeacePlayers NI (who are core-funded by the Community Relations Council) brought together pupils from Holy Cross and the predominantly Protestant neighbouring Wheatfield Primary. This peacebuilding intervention utilised an innovative programme of tailored community relations work through sport.

The aim: to build long-term relationships; create leavers; and reduce barriers.

“What we try to install is a sense of responsibility,” Gareth said. “The kids have a role here to play in making Northern Ireland better, and we’re going to try and give them the skills, experiences and opportunities to allow them to do that.” This led to another innovative programme. Drawing on local and international experience using basketball to bridge divides, develop leaders and change perceptions, PeacePlayers – working closely with the Ulster Council of the GAA, the IFA and Ulster Rugby – helped evolve and develop the Game of Three Halves model – which typically uses Gaelic football, rugby and soccer to challenge perceptions and attitudes. But the inclusion of an expertly facilitated 4th half of community relations conversations and capacity building helped unlock the peacebuilding potential of sport.

This innovative strategy has been referenced in The Executive’s Together: Building a United Community strategy as a case study of best practice.

And two such people have already experienced the PeacePlayers effect. Rachel and AJ attended two primary schools in North Belfast separated by a community divide. PeacePlayers brought them together and they’ve since been friends for almost a decade. They’re both sessional coach with PeacePlayers, having graduated from one of their courses.

“We went to primary schools in Belfast just across the street from each other,” AJ said. “But we grew up in separate worlds and never crossed the road to speak. Today, simply after the opportunity to play basketball together, we’re the best of friends, forming a friendship across the divide with the help of PeacePlayers Northern Ireland.”

Rachel added: “We grew up within PeacePlayers, and I’ve experienced first-hand the importance of a nurturing and positive environment, filled with friends and supportive coaches and how this can impact on a participant’s life. “It’s important to me to create a similar experience for participants who are currently engaged in PeacePlayers.”

Sport’s ability to bring people together and form lasting friendships is key to PeacePlayers’ success.

“We provide coordinated interventions at key life stages,” Gareth said, “to allow people from different backgrounds to address embedded patterns of division and mistrust. “Having PeacePlayers’ contribution and that of sport recognised by CRC through the awarding of core funding status, has helped PeacePlayers to raise the profile of peace-building through sport work and to develop new and innovative sports-based programming that has already helped and will continue to help children and young people to come together.”

PeacePlayers NI is core funded by the Community Relations Council.


Turas Project

Gail’s Story

Seven years ago, local east Belfast woman Gail McCune decided to attend an Irish class in the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road. Although a little apprehensive at first, Gail discovered a love for the language which has inspired her to continue with her study of Irish. Over the years, Gail has improved her language skills achieving a Distinction in the Irish Language Diploma with the University of Ulster. Last year she embarked on a degree course in Irish and Archaeology at Queen’s University. Gail’s decision to attend that first beginners’ class which was provided by East Belfast Mission’s Turas project has proved to be life changing.

This animation project was funded by a Media Grant from the Community Relations Council.

The Turas Project is core funded by the Community Relations Council.


Virtual Reality

Challenging Sectarian Prejudice

Virtual Reality is being used to help challenge stereotypes and reduce sectarian prejudice in a project developed through Queen’s University Belfast with assistance from the Community Relations Council (CRC). Dr Salvador Alvidrez, principal investigator for the project, joined CRC for a research secondment during 2019. Virtual reality (VR) is an emergent technology that is currently being applied to many areas such as business, health care and entertainment. It has become more affordable and popular in recent years.

“Our project will test social interactions in VR between members of the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland and their influence in overcoming prejudiced perceptions,” Salvador explained.

Salvador is from Mexico and completed his PhD in Spain, focusing on using communication technologies to reduce prejudice towards ethnic minorities. “I carried out a similar study at the University of California Davis using VR and the findings were quite promising,” Salvador explained. “My current project was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship, giving me the opportunity of working with Professor Rhiannon Turner at Queen’s University Belfast. The reason behind this approach was to find out first-hand what is the state of current relationships between communities, and what position sectarianism occupies among people’s current concerns.

A risk-free space

“VR offers a risk-free space to talk and discuss issues that would otherwise be difficult on a face-to-face basis,” Salvador began. “As you are using an avatar, you remain “anonymous” but visible at the same time. VR can be a stage in which animosity can be alleviated before getting people to meet face-to-face.”

It was important for Salvador to develop this project in Northern Ireland.

“While I was collecting information from community members, I noticed that not only the people who lived during The Troubles consider that sectarianism is still present and alive in Northern Ireland, but this opinion is also shared by young university students,” he said. “This says a lot about the current state of relations between communities.”

The virtual studio

However, respondents also expressed a strong interest and willingness to overcome these differences with bottom-up solutions.

“They trust in community work for addressing social problems,” he continued, “and this is where our project can become a tool for peace building.”

Digital and immersive communication tools can also be effective at bringing people together.

“The current Covid-19 pandemic has pushed a digital transformation that has not been seen before,” Salvador added. “We rely now more than ever on digital technologies, particularly communication technologies for staying connected with our loved ones, our work colleagues, and the world outside. Every day we learn from the new communities that have been created since most lockdowns started. This shows us that communication technologies can bring people together.”

Salvador believes the project would not have been possible without the support of CRC.

“CRC helped me to get in touch with community organisations, practitioners, and contract holders that provided me not only with valuable information about the conflict but also about successful practices to bring communities closer. Collaborating with the CRC has shaped the project significantly by learning from its target population, thus giving us the opportunity to refine it in order to maximise its social impact.”

Find out more about the VR project at Queen’s University Belfast.

Select the button below to see VR in action when staff of CRC took part in a virtual reality game show.

Would I Lie To All of You?

Women’s Stories of Resilience

3 films about the legacy of the past and building a better future

Women from across the community came together to film three plays based on their own experiences from the past 30 years. Their stories are honest and poignant, sometimes funny, and deal with difficult issues. Above all, it gives them a voice and an opportunity to explore the past, as well as looking to the future.

This peacebuilding project was funded through Community Relations Council (CRC) Small Grants Scheme. It involved a joint venture between Falls Women’s Centre, Shankill Women’s Centre, and Queens Park Women’s Group, with volunteer support from the Community Relations Forum.

Both Falls and Shankill Women’s Centres are core funded by CRC.

Real life voices

Film is such an important medium in helping to document people’s stories and bring real-life voices to a new audience. Another important aspect is challenging preconceptions. Nancy Graham, Falls Women’s Centre, said: “We wanted to create something funny and lively, but there was a need to address the experience of hurt and trauma too. With the help of community dramatist Jo Egan, we began to sketch out a plan for three films.” But releasing people’s stories into the public domain must be done responsibly, and with consideration for participants’ safety and wellbeing. “Every line in each of the scripts was read through and discussed with the participants, in a supportive group setting,” Nancy explained. “Any line or word that caused concern was taken out, mindful of the personal risk to some in talking too freely or being perceived as criticising their own. It was a collective process – we wanted every woman to feel happy about the final cut.” The three films are framed in the format of past, present, and future. “The woman shared very personal, sometimes painful, stories,” Nancy explained. “But there was a lot of laughter! Which might surprise you – but the truth is, the women were glad to be out and involved again – and threw themselves so wholeheartedly into the project, it was a joy to be involved.”

“Sometimes I could feel a tear come to my eye to listen to what we had all been through, the hurt, the loss, death … but, when I looked round the room at the different areas that the ladies came from, I realised that although out journey isn’t over, well, at least we have started it.” Queen’s Park Women’s Group

Dealing with difficult subject matter

“We wanted to highlight women’s contribution to peacebuilding, and create something lasting that would make our participants proud to be part of it,” Nancy said. “We felt there was a need for women to give voice to their very recent experience through lockdown – as mothers, caregivers, living alone, involved in community activism and more – recognising their own strengths and coping strategies, today as in the past.”

Reflecting on the impact of conflict on different communities

Realising that the project would be intense, the organisers invited participants who had already engaged in Good Relations projects, and had experience of reflecting on the impact of conflict on their own and the “other” community.

“Jo Egan’s experience informed the programme, which involved storytelling in single-identity groups; coming together for whole group discussion and editing of the scripts; whole group rehearsals; filming, and finally the launch,” Nancy said.

The creative decision to randomise script lines produced a puissant dimension to the finished piece.

“The decision to allocate script lines randomly had a real impact,” Nancy said. “Any of the women you see in the films could be voicing the experience of another. Isn’t that powerful?”

Honesty and lived experience

Future plans for project include the organisations involved taking the films out to other community groups as part of a good relations programme.

Nancy said: “The films are professionally made and will stand the test of time, offering many points for discussion in the context of dealing with legacy of the past and building a better future. The women’s honesty and lived experience shine out.”


Footsteps to Peace

Exploring 30 Years Of Community Relations in Northern Ireland

Northern Visions delved into recently recorded footage, as well as their community archives, to highlight community relations practice over the years and bring it to television screens. 

The documentary “Footsteps to Peace” marked Good Relations Week 2020, which celebrates 30 years of peacebuilding and cultural diversity.

The documentary features many Community Relation Council core funded groups, and was screened on the NvTv television network Good Relations Week.


A girl against the Taliban

Beyond Skin

A 10-year-old girl went up against the Taliban in order to get an education in music – and won.

In this extraordinary story brought to you by Beyond Skin, find out about Taranom’s courage, love for music and her memories of Afghanistan.

Taranom (now 15) fought to join the Afghan Women’s Orchestra at age 10 and is now relocated to Finland with her family. She speaks to Kerry Anderson who is a  Beyond Skin youth4peace ambassador.

This interview was produced by 3Fortyfive Films as part of a collaborative project between past and current members of the Afghan Women’s Orchestra (Zohra Ensemble) and musicians and young people in Northern Ireland.

“My parents knew that I had keen interest and talent in music and they started to search for a school that could possibly polish my music skills. During their efforts to find me a relevant school, since it is quite uncommon in Afghanistan to have a music school for girls, they came across one private institute for adults that they approached for admitting me as a student. That institute refused to admit me as I was a girl.”



TIDES Training

DARE to Connect Safely

To help young people connect safely during lockdown, within social isolation measures imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, a new online and interactive programme was developed: DARE to Connect Safely.

The programme was delivered by TIDES Training (who are core funded by the Community Relations Council) and in partnership with Bryson Care. Due to not being able to deliver peace training in face-to-face groups, DARE to Connect Safely brings people together via a virtual space as a Facebook Group. In coming together, they created a common understanding of safety, calming and peace despite much uncertainty.

The programme was part of the DARE to Lead Change programme supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme and delivered by DARE/TIDES Regional Trainer, Carole Kane

How DARE to Connect Safely works
Initially, participants were invited to go for a walk and intentionally engage their senses; to see, feel, hear, taste, touch. Based on whatever catches people’s attention on their walk, they are invited to take a photograph or make a drawing and accompany this with a descriptive phrase, set of three words or write a Haiku. These are shared in the Facebook Group. It is not a competition and keeping the process simple, works best. Words are then collated into a collective poem on a daily basis and shared on the discussion thread.

At the start of this process, DARE regional trainer and mediator, Carole Kane, shared live sessions which gave some grounding and context to the page – linking practical engagement with theories relating to peace. These can still be seen in the group. These slots then evolved into bi-weekly “reflections” which framed the opportunity for people to free write or draw. These slots also evolved into weekly interactive Zoom sessions also led by Carole which lasted for one hour.

Facebook Group
The main aim of DARE to Connect Safely is to use a Facebook group as a platform to promote a sense of safety, calming and hope. Research states that these interventions and preventative efforts should be made in the early to mid-stages of broader public health and emergency management, and therefore relevant in this pandemic crisis. Participation in the group offers a sense of self and collective value as individuals can be involved alone or connect with others.


Celebrating our Journey

Embracing our Future

Martin McDonald, MBE and Chair of the Community Relations Council, spoke about the importance of peacebuilding in a studio interview with NVTV television station. Joining him for the interview, which aired on NVTV on 2 July 2020, was the Building Communities Resource Centre in Ballymoney, who are core funded by CRC.

CRC, which turned 30-years-old, celebrated outstanding community relations with a series of virtual events for Good Relations Week 2020, held between 14 and 21 September, to showcase the fantastic work local communities have been doing under the theme: “Celebrating our Journey. Embracing our Future.”


Impact of Covid-19 On Young People

Springboard Opps

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the wellbeing of young people, including lack of social interaction, increased screen time, and limited human contact. Springboard Opps, who are core funded by the Community Relations Council, created a video to capture what young people were feeling while living through lockdown.

“We wanted to ensure that young people had an opportunity to reflect and process their emotions whilst surviving a global pandemic,” said Angila Chada, Executive Director of Springboard. “It was important they had space to reflect on their life and ask what they wanted to leave behind and what they wanted to take with them moving forward.”

As unprecedented as lockdown is, it was important to capture young people learning positively, which in turn could be used to help shape a resilient mindset for the future.

“Amidst the anxiety and uncertainty,” Angila continued, “young people recognised they could have hope, creativity, resilience and still learn positively from a negative situation.”

Unique snapshot of time

As society emerges from lockdown, there are continuing levels of anxiety and issues surrounding clarity of advice. “Confusion around what can or cannot be done due to Covid-19 can impact on wellbeing,” Angila explained. “This is also further impacted by economic and social disadvantage and marginalisation which is faced by many of our young people. Moving forward, it is essential a holistic focus is placed on the wellbeing development of young people.”

This could mean mental health, as well as personal, civic and economic health.
“Any response must be holistic and therefore sustainable,” Angila continued. “Key to recovery is provision of training and employment opportunities to ensure marginalised young people are not squeezed out of the market. Action is needed now!”

A new way of thinking

Springboard Opps met the challenge of Covid-19 by reframing their programmes and learning strategies with new technology platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom. The key was to utilise technology and communication platforms that participants not only preferred to use but were also comfortable with.

“We had to try out new ways to connect,” Angila explained. “From building personal skills and learning about good relations and citizenship with online workshops, to reaching out to others through writing to care homes, as well as taking a lighter approach through our Mexican waves challenge, planting sunflowers, and pizza calls.”

Embedding a sense of belonging was critical to what Springboard wanted to achieve. “Despite the challenging environment,” Angila said, “the young people involved continued to build confidence and relationships, and look after themselves and others. We pay tribute to the journeys they have made.”

Space and flexibility to create
Angila believes support from the Community Relations Council has allowed Springboard the space and flexibility to create and develop new ways of working with young people from across communities.

“Springboard has massively benefited from CRC support, which has been fantastic. As a funder they have understood the acute challenges the organisation and staff have faced, in responding to the pressures of Covid-19 and a new way of working. They also supported us, to support others at a quality level, throughout the lockdown. Their words of support matched their actions, letting us get on with much-needed work, and being there for positive support.”
Angila Chada, Executive Director of Springboard


Ats Us Nai

An in-depth series of interviews conducted by Michael Avila from AvilaMedia entitled Ats Us Nai about contemporary peacebuilding challenges throughout the region.

In this series of vlogs, funded by a media grant from the Community Relations Council, Michael Avila interviews community leaders across Northern Ireland who are working towards continued reconciliation.


CRC Grants Scheme

Tips and advice on applying

We developed a video resource to help you find out about the different grant schemes available from the Community Relations Council, as well providing advice and tips for completing your application.

You can also find out even more information on the CRC website by following the link below.

View Website

Resource Fair

Decade of Centenaries

The Decade of Centenaries Roundtable held a Resource Fair over three days on 24—26 February 2021. This event showcased available resources to support organisations to mark the 2021 NI Centenary. The Resource Fair provided opportunities to discuss the use of available resources and their application in a way that reinforces the Principles for Remembering.

Decade of Centenaries
The Decade of Centenaries: 1912-1922, included a series of significant events in Ireland that changed the physical, cultural, political and economic landscape today, North and South. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 led to Northern Ireland as a separate legal entity on 3 May 1921, and in approaching the 100th anniversary, we have the opportunity to reflect on this period of time, acknowledging different perspectives and complexities of a contested history that may influence how people view and may respond to this anniversary. The Resource Fair offers a variety of approaches and opportunities for respectful listening and engaging in constructive dialogue about the impact of Partition of Centenaries.

Present at the Resource Fair were contributions, presenters and case studies from The Junction, Ulster Historical Foundation, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen, Living Legacies at Queen’s University, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum, Building Communities Resource Centre, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, History Teachers Association, Corrymeela, Derry City & Strabane District Council, and The Nerve Centre.

We have 27 videos available to stream now on our YouTube channel – follow the link below.

View All Videos

Year-long Celebration of St Colmcille

The Churches Trust had a year-long celebration across Donegal and Derry/Londonderry of the life and legacy of St Colmcille/Columba. The event marked the 1500th anniversary of St Colmcille/Columba.

The Churches Trust, who are core funded by the Community Relations Council, have produced a powerful film full of messages of hope and togetherness – sharing a culture and heritage that unites us all.

Contact Us

Our Peace Our Stories is a journey we are all on together, and we hope you have found stories here to inspire your own peacebuilding and good relations activities.

This resource is devoted to highlighting great examples of how to build stronger, more peaceful communities throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.

If you think you have a project that could be featured here, then let us know in the contact box below.

We’d love to hear your story.