A Kirsten Kearney J September 30, 2015
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Stormont’s Long Gallery was packed on Monday for the launch of ‘Voices of the New Belfast’ an exciting cross-cultural documentary film project capturing real stories and experiences of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

VOTNB invite_frontCitizens from across the nation gathered with politicians, dignitaries and many representatives of Belfast’s different ethnic communities to prove that we are ‘One Place, Many People’ – the theme of CRC’s Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week 2015. #CRWeek15

Created by award-winning Belfast film-making charity, ESC, (www.esc-film.com @ESCBelfast) the project drew from individuals across Belfast who would identify with the BME community, the Chinese, Polish and Eastern European communities, and those who do not identify with a particular community at all. Each was given the chance to tell their story.

The films bring up difficult issues and challenging questions around identity, racism and stereotypes, human trafficking, culture and the space for different cultures, Islam, atheism, religion and the troubled concept of home.

Chris Lyttle speaking B&W VOTNBSponsored and masterminded by East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle, who opened the evening, the event hosted Junior Minister Jennifer McCann, Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence as well as the Chair of the Community Relations Council, Peter Osborne.


Guy Spence B&W VOTNB speakingThe project aims, as the Deputy Lord Mayor said “to be a catalyst for challenge and discussion” to bring stories to light and to allow space for important conversations to take place at all levels.

Speaking at the event, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said: “Increasing diversity helps us grow as a culture, as an economy and as an outward looking society. We all have a responsibility to welcome new people and help create a society in which tolerance and respect are core values shared by everyone.

Official shot VOTNB“This requires strong leadership from government. The new Racial Equality Strategy will bring together policy and action across government to challenge racial inequality and eradicate race hate. It will play a crucial role in building a better society. However, we cannot achieve this in isolation. The inspirational stories told in these films show the positive difference that individual acts of kindness, sharing and friendship can make, to create a force for our common goal.”

KK speaking B&W VOTNBDr Kirsten Kearney, CEO of ESC, described how the film-making team “struggled with the right wording for this project. With defining the people whose stories we wanted to tell. None of the words we use do justice to the people we’ve met: ‘foreign nationals’, ‘immigrants’, ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’. Probably because each of them diminishes the human being by putting a label on their head.”
Peter Osborne speaking B&W VOTNB
The underlying theme for the evening, however came from a poignant line from Peter Osborne, Chair of CRC. Drawing on Imaging NI, the recent infographic billboards by The Detail (www.thedetail.tv) that have appeared all over the country in the past week, he stressed that this nation is a place of minorities, with 11% of the population of Northern Ireland / the North of Ireland being born outside of its borders.

He said “We are all minorities in this place we call home and need to create new ways of learning to live together”

The films themselves and the stories that they hold reveal ways of learning this lesson – with the difficulties, the challenges as well as the laughs that this can hold.

The warm and welcoming atmosphere on the evening was created through the sound and vision mix of contemporary contemporary composer and sound designer Przemek Straus and professional portrait photographer Adam Grzegorz Gabrys.

The project, supported by Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Department, the Community Relations Council and The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, worked in partnership with East Belfast’s Globe Café and South Belfast’s Belfast Friendship Club with film-makers Tom Magill, Stuart Sloan, Jonny Agnew and Gerard Stewart.

All the films are available online at www.voicesofthenewbelfast.org and screenings can be organised on request.

False Freedom launches at Stormont

A Kirsten Kearney J May 28, 2015
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ESC is very proud to announce the launch of our latest film and educational resource, False Freedom; a new DVD highlighting the issues around child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland, aimed at raising awareness around the dangers for children and young people over the age of twelve.

The DVD entitled ‘False Freedom’ was created by young people who volunteered through Barnardo’s NI Safe Choices service which supports young people vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The young people wrote and acted in the film which shows how grooming for exploitation can be played out in real life and depicts a young girl who finds herself in an exploitative relationship.

ESC facilitated the project, working hand in hand with Barnardo’s NI and volunteers at the Corrymeela Community in Ballycastle, to work with the young people over a five day residential to make the film. The aim of the DVD and the accompanying resource pack is to alert young people to the dangers around sexual exploitation and generate discussion about the issues with the aim of empowering young people to make safe choices for themselves.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 12.53.59

Watch the film here.

Sarah, who took part in the making of the film said: “It was really important to me to help make other young people aware of how easily they can get caught up in a situation where they are being exploited. What can start out looking like fun can escalate to the point where you can feel out of your depth, trapped and scared. I just hope this film will raise awareness and stop other young people experiencing the same thing.”

Helen McKenzie from the Safeguarding Board NI said: “False Freedom is a powerful film which we hope will raise awareness of sexual exploitation and help keep children and young people safe from those who would want to groom and exploit them. Because it has been developed by young people from Northern Ireland who have experienced this form of abuse it is hard hitting and realistic and will resonate with other young people who might think it is something that doesn’t happen here. We are very grateful to the young people who volunteered to help produce the film and who also acted in it they have helped produce something that will have a positive impact and help protect other young people.”

The DVD was funded by the Public Health Agency as part of the CSE Knowledge Transfer Partnership NI and the resource pack is jointly funded by the Safeguarding Board NI, PSNI and St James Place Foundation.

The DVD and resource pack is free of charge and can be used in any setting from schools to youth clubs and is available from Barnardo’s NI. For further information contact: Jacqui.montgomery@barnardos.org.uk


Voices of the New Belfast

A Kirsten Kearney J March 24, 2015
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voices-of-the-new-belfast-logoThe Community Relations Council has welcomed a series of short films being screened from today. Voices of the New Belfast is an exciting documentary film project centred on individuals from the new communities who have come to Belfast since 1998. It captures real stories and explores the experiences of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds on camera.

Created by award-winning Belfast film-making charity, ESC, (www.esc-film.com) the project drew from individuals across Belfast who would identify with the BME community, the Roma community, the Chinese, Polish and Eastern European communities, and those who do not identify with a particular community at all. Each was given the chance to tell their story.

The films bring up difficult issues and challenging questions around identity, racism and stereotypes, human trafficking, culture and the space for different cultures, Islam, atheism, religion and the troubled concept of home.

The project, supported by the Community Relations Council’s Media Grant and Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Department, worked in partnership with East Belfast’s Globe Café and South Belfast’s Belfast Friendship Club and film-makers Stuart Sloan, Jonny Agnew and Gerard Stewart. The films launch this week and after the premieres you can watch the films and join the discussion forums at www.voicesofthenewbelfast.org

Deirdre McBride CRC photoDeirdre Mac Bride, CRC Cultural Diversity Director, said:

“ Voices of the New Belfast  provides positive empowering stories of real individuals from a wide range of different cultural backgrounds and nationalities who have immigrated to Northern Ireland.  The films reflect their experiences of living in Belfast, their opinions of current efforts to reduce racism, and their hopes and fears for the future. It is essentially their stories told in their way. CRC hopes that the films will increase understanding among wider society of the effects of racism and other prejudices. We would encourage everyone to see the films.”

Jenny Smithson VONB picGlobe Café founder Jenny Smithson was one of the inspirations behind the project:

“Globe Café has been operating in East Belfast now for just over a year and we’ve been involved in helping to tell the stories of some of the foreign nationals who have chosen to come to Belfast to work or study.  Given the recent surge in race hate crimes in this part of the city and some of the negative publicity around foreign nationals in our society, we believe this positive work is much needed.  It will provide an invaluable opportunity for those who participate in the programme to make their voices heard and to gain confidence as they help others understand their stories.  This may be, for some, a significant step in developing their sense of ‘belonging’ here in Belfast.”

You can watch all the films and join the discussions at www.voicesofthenewbelfast.org


Deirdre McBride CRC and ESC teamThanks to the film-making team of (L – R) Gerard Stewart, Stuart Sloan and Jonny Agnew. Flanked by Deirdre McBride (CRC) and Kirsten Kearney (ESC CEO). Project facilitation by ESC’s Artistic Director Tom Magill.

Many thanks to Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Department and the Community Relations Council.

CRC high res logo



Getting All our Stories out there…

A Kirsten Kearney J October 20, 2014
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MindWise All our Stories launch photo pic

All Our Stories Premiere: Personal Stories of Mental Health Trauma and Recovery

On Monday 13th of October local mental health charity MindWise and ESC held the film premiere of All Our Stories: personal short films of trauma and recovery in the Black Box Belfast.

ESC worked with MindWise service users from the Belfast Resource Centre over a 15 week period to write, perform and record short films of their personal experience with mental illness. The project was funded by the Big Lottery Awards For All.

Speaking at the launch, Anne Doherty, Deputy CEO of MindWise highlighted the stigma and discrimination that often surrounds mental health and commended participants for their bravery in coming forward and sharing their story. It is hoped that these films will raise awareness of mental illness, start meaningful discussions and encourage others to speak out about their experiences.

Creative arts are a useful tool in mental health recovery. During this project, participants used storytelling and filmmaking to take control of their stories and experiences. One participant described his mental illness as “a bag of coal on my back”. Another said that the project “enabled me to untie the knot”.

Dr Kirsten Kearney, Chief Executive of ESC said:
“ESC has been privileged to work with MindWise on this exciting and challenging project. We’re very proud of the films that the participants have produced, but more importantly, of the impact that being involved in this creative process has had on the individuals’ recovery”

The premiere was part of the Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (NIMHAFF).
To watch the films please visit MindWise’s Voices Archive or our Filmography page.


Double Film Premiere Success

A Kirsten Kearney J October 16, 2014
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ESC’s Film Premieres on Monday of this week were a huge success with the Black Box in Belfast packed out with audience members from all over Northern Ireland and even Canada!

Like Minds pic I thinkThe morning saw the ESC / MindWise collaboration ‘All our Stories’ which focused on the experiences of a group of men with mental ill health who participate in therapeutic and supportive work at MindWise’s Belfast Resource Centre. The films were challenging, encompassing solvent abuse, schizophrenia, unrequited love and the difficulties of the recovery journey. We are very grateful to Awards for All for their support for this project.

Some audience feedback:
“Great insight into the taboo subject of mental health. The actors were very brave & inspired to tell their stories”
“The stories were incredibly powerful and and moving. They broadened the spectrum of creativity and challenged our perspectives.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 13.23.39The afternoon saw the celebration of four years of work at Holywell hospital with the Community and Forensic Mental Health Team on ESC’s flagship project Second Chance for Change: Including the Excluded.

ESC were proud to welcome some of the participants in the project to the stage to take part in a post-screening Q&A, touching on issues of domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and institutional child sexual abuse and the future of the ‘asylum’ in today’s culture and political climate.

If you missed the launches the films are nearly all up online! Click here.

SONY DSCThe film launches were the culmination of two projects and part of the final day of the Northern Ireland Mental Health Festival. We would like to thank all the festival organisers, the participants in our projects, MindWise, Holywell hospital staff, Esmee Fairbairn and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust for all their support. A big thank you too to the ESC Team and our associates, Karen Kinghan, Ben Price, Michael MacBroom, Will McConnell and Stuart Sloan. Great work everyone!

FILM PREMIERE INVITE – Mon 13 Oct at 13.30

A Kirsten Kearney J October 9, 2014
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Come and experience ESC’s groundbreaking storytelling and film work. Service users at Holywell hospital, who are in the overlap between criminal justice and mental health, committed to telling their traumatic stories on film. Through this creative process they found catharsis and healing.

The films are incredible and the work has been transformative. Come and share in their journey of recovery. We’ll be screening the films with behind the scenes documentary and hosting a post show Q&A with tea and cakes.

Email us to reserve your place. It’s free but donations are welcome on the day to help towards next year’s project.

We’re proud of be part of the NI Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.

WHERE: The Black Box, 18-22 Hill Street, Belfast

WHEN: Monday 13th October, 1.30pm

RSVP: info@esc-film.com or phone 028 90 243 338

NIMHAFF festival launches 17th Sept 2014 

A Kirsten Kearney J September 9, 2014
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NIMHAFF logoThe 2nd Northern Ireland Mental Health Arts and Film Festival will launch on Wednesday 17th September from 3-5pm in the Canada Room & Council Chamber in the Lanyon Building at Queen’s University Belfast.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nichola Mallon will open the event which will feature song, poetry and music highlighting the impact of the arts on mental health and creativity.

 This year’s Festival Director, Jane Reynolds, herself a mental health practitioner at Holywell Hospital, said:

 “I’m very excited to be presenting the line-up for this year’s five-day festival. It is going to be engaging, entertaining and challenging. It is becoming more and more evident that mental health is an issue that concerns us all, so we would encourage people all across Northern Ireland to come and see what the festival has to offer.”

In its first year, NIMHAFF reached over 1500 people and this year’s festival promises to widen its appeal even further – with events from Derry to Dungannon, Newcastle to Newry, with arts on offer from visual arts and photography, poetry and song to psychodrama, music, comedy and film, the festival promises to put transformation on the agenda across NI.

Fresh from their success at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, York-based Six Lips Theatre company brings their ground-breaking theatre/dance fusion show, The House of Tragic She, to QUB while, for the first time, simultaneous film screenings of Take Shelter take place in Fermanagh, Dungannon, Newcastle and Belfast.

With potential collaborations with Dublin’s First Fortnight festival, events in kick-boxing clubs, hospitals, cafes and shopping centres, this festival will be one to watch.

All the information and up-to-date event listings can be found at www.nimhaff.org or contact info@nimhaff.org, Facebook, or on Twitter @nimhaff

Marking Time: Prison Arts & Activism

A Kirsten Kearney J September 1, 2014
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making_time conference tom magillESC Artistic Director Tom Magill & Shakespeare Behind Bars founder Curt Tofteland to share a stage at the Marking Time: Prison Arts & Activism Conference this October at Rutgers University in New Brunswick – 

Organized and Hosted by the Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers, New Brunswick, 8-10 October 2014. Tom and Curt will be presenting on Shakespeare in Prison. If you are in the area, please get along – it’s free and open to the public.

More information on the programme is available here.

Mickey B tours the US

A Kirsten Kearney J November 4, 2013
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Mickey B is touring the US!!
Here’s the schedule:

November 13 – Keynote Speaker and screening of Mickey B at Hope College, Holland, Michigan

November 14 – Visit Shakespeare Behind Bars programme in Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Complex, Muskegon Heights, Michigan

November 14 – Keynote Speaker at Physicians Dinner Holland, Michigan

November 15-16 – Keynote Speaker and screening of Mickey B at Prison Arts Practitioner Conference at University of Notre Dame South Bend, Indiana – more info

November 19 – Keynote Speaker and screening of Mickey B at Emory University Atlanta, Georgia

November 20 – Visit classes at Emory University Atlanta, Georgia

November 21 – Keynote Speaker and screening of Mickey B at Oxford College, Oxford, Georgia

November 22 – Visit Lee Arrendale State Prison Alto, Georgia

November 23 – Visit Shakespeare Behind Bars program at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex LaGrange, Kentucky

November 25-26 – Keynote Speaker and screening of Mickey B at Oakland University Oakland, Michigan