The July celebrations are approaching, flags are flying and band music is in the air. The people of the Shankill are proud of their culture, and celebrate it well…but how much do our young people know about our culture? How many opportunities to learn about our culture are young people offered? Who shares their knowledge of culture with our young people?
These were all questions recently discussed in The ACT Initiative’s local Area Action Group, during which it was suggested that if these questions are an issue, why don’t we try and address them! In doing just that members of the Area Action Group began to engage with groups of young people who were working some of the most prominent cultural activities in the bonfire sites…collecting, building, and guarding the ‘boney’ and making huts that builders would be proud of. From talking to the young people, it was obvious that there was an interest in their culture, and an eagerness to learn more.
The Area Action Group decided to offer out a programme about culture (‘Communicating culture’), and as well as bonfire groups, also visited local community organisations. In partnership with the Glencairn Youth Initiative, Greater Shankill Alternatives and the ACT Initiative, a group of young people in Glencairn are participating in the programme. ‘Communicating culture’ will allow the young people to explore and debate issues around their own culture and identity, to look at the history of their culture and will challenge negative views regarding culture, identity and young people in the community. The young people will use photography to form a mural to depict personal views of their culture, to show who they feel are leaders of our community, and to highlight the knowledge they’ve gained through the programme. The ACT Initiative feels it is important to educate our young people in their culture, and July is a good time to start. We thank the Glencairn Youth Initiative for helping to provide the opportunity to do this, and, along with Greater Shankill Alternatives, thank them for their support in the continuing programme.
Following on from the success with the Glencairn young people, a number of ACT volunteers from Springmartin engaged with young people at the local bonfire. A survey about bonfires and culture was completed by 16 youths between 11-16 who had been collecting the wood. To the surprise of the ACT lads none of the youngsters had ever stayed out at their bonfire.
As I’m sure most readers will agree staying out to protect your wood in July made some of the best memories as a kid. The ACT volunteers liaised with the parents and arranged for the group to camp out at the bonfire under their supervision. In the end over 30 from the local area spent the night at the bonfire and were encouraged to talk about their culture and got brief history lessons on why we have the celebrations in July. The local community spirit came out and the neighbours around the bonfire cooked warm food for everyone, well after sunrise the ACT volunteers returned each child to their parents safely. A great night was had by all and some real friendships made, so much so that more nights are planned up until the 11th night. Well done to the ACT volunteers involved and well done to the young people for wanting to take part.