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.
Citizens 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.
Sponsored 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.
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.
“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.”
Dr 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.”
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.