From Grassroots Activism to Unveiling Northern Ireland’s Untold Stories

From Grassroots Activism to Unveiling Northern Ireland’s Untold Stories

by Elspeth Vischer, Project Coordinator, Northern Ireland Now project.

On International Women's Day, dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women around the globe, I find myself reflecting on my personal and professional journey and who inspired me to try to amplify marginalised voices and carve out spaces for inclusive dialogue.

It was during an International Women’s Day Rally in Nicaragua that I was inspired to commit to working on creative projects engaged with intersectional feminism. I remember the colourful T-shirts with slogans saying We’re all equal (somos iguales) and the beautiful chanting uniting everyone in song. It was here, along with a small group of activists celebrating equality that I committed to being more involved in feminist activity in whatever way I could.


From London to Latin America

My story begins in London, grows in Belfast and stretches across Bristol and Manchester, before reaching Latin America. Travelling enabled me to learn and shaped my perspective on activism, which in turn shaped my film work.

Upon returning to Belfast to pursue an MA in Film at Queen’s University, my focus shifted towards the intersection of grassroots activism and documentary filmmaking, particularly around counter-hegemonic representation. This exploration, both academic and deeply personal, led to my PhD research and the documentary Let Us Be Seen weaving together the voices of those championing feminist causes in Belfast.

Through the Lens: Amplifying Marginalised Voices

As a filmmaker committed to challenging mainstream narratives, I've aimed to bring the stories often left in the shadows to light. Whether creating music videos, experimental shorts, or documentaries, my goal has always been to work with people collaboratively and to use visual storytelling to explore a subject.

My collaborative work on A History in Numbers with Emma Campbell, Mairead Enright and Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell at Northern Ireland Screen, is a time that was particularly moving. Together, we edited 100 years of women's history from the archives, crafting a narrative that not only connects the past and present but also celebrates the relentless spirit of women who have shaped our history.

Embarking on Northern Ireland Now

Stepping into my role at the Nerve Centre, I am thrilled to coordinate the delivery of the Northern Ireland Now project, aiming to harness the collective power of storytelling. My vision for this project is ambitious yet simple: to create a platform that elevates the diverse narratives of Northern Ireland, offering a window into the lives and experiences that make our region unique.

Community and Collaboration

Engaging with rural heritage groups, migrant communities and neurodivergent collectives, I am delivering collaborative workshops that bring our collective stories to the forefront. I am committed to ensuring that these stories not only resonate locally but capture the imagination of audiences worldwide.

Northern Ireland Now Community Workshop

Reflections and Resolutions

As I reflect on this journey — from the streets of Nicaragua to the collaborative spaces of the Nerve Centre — I am reminded of the power of dedication, creativity and community all around me. It’s not always easy working in the arts with limited funding and political instability in Northern Ireland, but with the solidarity of so many groups and people I’ve been encouraged to keep going.

With the completion of my PhD marking the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to a project I deeply care about.

Reclaim The Agenda’s 2024 theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Peace and Courage.’ It’s a good time to reflect on what this means in all our lives and how we can make a difference.

If you're interested in the potential of the Northern Ireland Now project, or have any questions, you can reach out via

Northern Ireland Now is increasing access to archival material with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, led by Northern Ireland Screen and supported by the Nerve Centre.