The arts can be a powerful tool to build community relationships, as Londonderry’s Waterside Theatre has discovered. The theatre’s National Lottery-funded arts development programme supports local communities through art-based activities. It specifically aims to help ease the integration of young immigrants into Northern Irish society.
“The idea is to break down barriers and stigmas,” says the General Manager. “We aim to address any fears that can build up into bullying or racial tension. Basically, we want to encourage young people to get along. It’s not a problem that will disappear overnight but I hope that by encouraging them to work together at a young age, these tensions will be reduced for future generations."
Aimed at 10-16 year-olds, the programme works with groups of Polish and Irish children who wouldn’t be involved with the arts, providing workshops and training in the theatre. The two groups came together to work on Myths and Fairytales, a piece of theatre that highlights the similarities between Irish and Polish folklore. The project ended with the play being performed at the Waterside to an audience of around 200 friends and relatives.
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