Ulster University recently hosted the public launch of an exciting new web resource exploring Ulster-Scots history and culture, makingnorthernireland.co.uk, created by the Nerve Centre.
The launch took place at the University’s new Belfast campus on Wednesday, November 23, and was introduced by Dr. Frank Ferguson. An audience of over 40 educationalists, language enthusiasts and Ulster-Scots cultural activists, gathered to see the website demonstrated by it’s author, Professor Wesley Hutchinson on a large screen projection.
Wesley Hutchinson, Professor Emeritus (Irish Studies) at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris is a native of County Antrim and is a well-known speaker and published author about Ulster-Scots, in particular Ulster-Scots identity.
Professor Hutchinson explained that ”Making Northern Ireland” is designed to highlight how interest in Ulster-Scots history and culture formed an essential aspect of unionist political strategy in the period leading up to the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921.
“The site calls on a broad range of political and literary sources – speeches, newspaper reports, letters, cartoons, photographs, poems – in order to show just how all-pervasive references to Ulster-Scots history and culture were in the unionist campaign against Home Rule that was to lead to the creation of Northern Ireland. This is the first time that this has been done.”
Professor Hutchinson demonstrated the interactive structure of the website and showed examples of the rich digital media content that can be found across three distinct modules. These include audio soundtracks of poems and political writings voiced in the Ulster-Scots vernacular. Another notable feature of the website is the stunning original illustrations by Nerve Centre artist/animator John McCloskey depicting the struggles of the Ulster-Scots community over four centuries.
The site has been designed as an educational resource across a broad range of levels. Some of the content is aimed particularly at Key Stage 3 and 4 students. However, the site can also be used by those working at more advanced levels as well as those with a general interest in Ulster-Scots history and culture.
An accompanying graphic novel, “The Ulster Scot — On Home Ground,” has been produced to appeal to teachers seeking creative ways to engage young learners about local history and heritage.
The website and graphic novel were funded by the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund. Richard Hanna, Chair of the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund commented at the launch.
"Making NI is an engaging multimedia teaching and learning resource that will help learners understand the Ulster-Scots identity in the context of the establishment of Northern Ireland. It is part of a developing range of content supported by the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund aimed specifically at encouraging the development of high quality digital assets that support teaching and learning about Ulster-Scots culture and heritage in the context of lifelong learning."
The launch concluded with the presentation of a five minute video of a digital workshop with history students from Coleraine College delivered by the Nerve Centre and Professor Hutchinson. Pupils chose to create a series of podcasts about the Larne gunning running of 1914.
The video brilliantly illustrates how the digital learning resources freely accessible on the website can be used to stimulate creativity and teach digital skills in the classroom. The video case study can be viewed at the following link.