9 November 2009: John Peacock of YouthLink explains how a group of Northern Irish young people marked the fall of the Berlin Wall at a Belfast Peace Wall
Following on from the discussion paper ‘A Process for Removing Interface Barriers' by Tony Macaulay last year, a group of youth workers working in interface communities in Belfast have been meeting together to discuss the issue of Peace Walls, and to explore how to ensure that children and young people are fully involved in any process. The meetings have been co-ordinated by Youth Link NI, the inter-church youth work training organisation.
The initiative, called ‘Up Against The Wall’, so far has included a consultation with children and young people and a series of workshops leading up to 9th November 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
We have organised three main activities between March and November 2009:
- Consultations with children and young people in interface communities;
- Ideas and planning workshops;
- Youth-led activities for 9th November 2009.
During March and April the group carried out a consultation with children and young people in interface communities. The group devised a series of questions to explore the issues with young people on the streets and in youth clubs and schools. The findings were collated and fed into the ideas and planning workshops.
Ideas and Planning Workshops
The first ‘Up Against the Wall’ event took place on Saturday 9th May in the Indian Community Centre and the Hopelink Centre at the Carlisle Circus interface of Belfast. The workshop included music, IT, arts, basketball and ideas workshops. 50 young people aged 14-17 years old attended the workshop from different interface areas and were facilitated to explore their ideas for the future in their areas. Some of the ideas which the young people suggested, are listed below:
- I would like a cross community park to replace the wall!
- Everybody come together from both communities and help knock down the wall to show their dedication and how much they want to come together.
- Put gate up.
- Everyone come together and say their own ideas to plan a party for everyone.
- Cross community camp everyone involved.
- More transparency!!
- Basketball nets on both sides of the wall.
- Cross Community Centre to replace the wall.
- Lower instead of higher!!!
- Leisure Centre.
- People from different backgrounds coming together!
- Cross community activities i.e. football, dance, etc.
- Somewhere we can chill out….
- I would like a cross community football pitch!
- Bring people across without fear. Enjoy life safely! Stop the fights. Teach the children different from we were taught! Show people we are not that different we are all human!
Event to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall: 9 November 2009
Close to 100 young people from interface areas across Belfast gathered at the gates in the peace wall on Lanark Way in West Belfast on Monday 9th November to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
They wore t-shirts which read: ‘Berlin 1961-1989, Belfast 1969-????. Thinking Seriously about Peace? Walls’. The t-shirts were funded by the Youth Council for NI as part of the Youth Service month.
The young people came together from both sides of the interfaces where they live in North, East, South and West Belfast. They played basketball with ‘the PeacePlayers’ against the peace wall and then they participated in a drumming workshop with the ‘Gathering Drum’ at the Lanark Way gate.
The Lord Mayor, Naomi Long, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley and visiting representatives from the US Congress attended the event to listen to the views of young people.
The young people were then invited to the City Hall to meet and discuss the issue of ‘peace walls’ with the Lord Mayor and to explain what they have been doing over the past six months as part of their ‘Up Against the Wall’ initiative.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Naomi Long, said this project was a wonderful example of her vision of 'a Belfast without barriers'.
"I value the input and views of young people and in particular those involved in this particular initiative," she said.
"They are making a positive statement about how we can all work towards the removal of divisions that sadly still exist in our own city. Their commitment fills me with pride and a determination to work with people like them to create solutions to our problems.
"Twenty years on from the world changing events in Berlin, we are reminded that change IS possible. Together we can build a vibrant, diverse and shared city that we can all be proud of," she added.
Looking to the future, we at YouthLink hope that the relationships formed through these conversations will continue to develop and give these young people the opportunity to participate in building a better future in their areas.
For more information please visit the YouthLink website.