‘Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting’ Project Update

‘Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting’ Project Update

We've been very busy this year rolling out the Northern Ireland Now project and working with some amazing community groups across Northern Ireland!


Between January and March we worked with our first three groups. Starting out in Hilltown, County Down we led our first workshop with a brilliant rural group in Cabra Community Hall, near Rathfriland. People exchanged ideas and contributed some fantastic videos, including footage of Gathering Festival, a local storytelling and music event set up in 2022. We also watched videos together of Back From The Boley Fair, a festival celebrating ancient agricultural traditions from the area.

Hilltown participants, Mary, Noel and Artie looking over local photos and records, connecting their own archives to the Digital Film Archive.


Next, we met with Belfast-based Indian community group ImageNation. At the four workshops held at Nerve Centre Belfast, participants really enjoyed sharing their knowledge around cultural events and filmmaking. Individuals made and contributed videos of their community involvement with events such as the Belfast Mela, Diwali and Holi celebrations. We discussed the melding of Irish and Indian culture at ImageNation events celebrating holidays like Halloween, St.Patrick's Day, International Women's Day and so on.

ImageNation participants watching some traditional Indian dance in a workshop ‘show and tell’.


Selkies were the third group to participate in the Northern Ireland Now project. As Northern Ireland’s only women’s sea shanty group, these women are a key part of our collective contemporary history. It was fascinating to hear the groups story. Formed in Portaferry during lockdown, they've quickly become an integral part of the community and maritime culture of the area. Meeting in Portaferry Recreation Hub where the group often meet to rehearse, it was fantastic to see videos of their bustling sea shantying sessions over the past few years!

Selkies participants having a sea shanty sing-song mid-workshop in Portaferry.


After Easter we visited Omagh to meet with a fantastic group in Strule Arts Centre. With a keen interest in history and heritage, this group provided invaluable content of the Omagh region, an under-represented area within the Digital Film Archive. One participant in particular shared a very moving family video including poetry from his late father, who had the same degenerative sight condition as he does. It was also brilliant to get a sense of the musical heritage of the area, we discussed show bands a lot in our workshops!

Strule Arts Centre Participant Sean Harpur discussing ideas with Colm McAleer and guide dog Bennie


Travelling to Drumcree Community Centre in Portadown, we worked with the inimitable SPUDS women’s group. This lively bunch love getting involved with art projects and are always up for trying something new. Having previously engaged with a Nerve Centre time capsule project, we conducted interviews about this, as the group stood above the patch of grass where the time capsule itself is buried. SPUDS, which stands for Simple Practical Ultimate De-Stressing, are very passionate about mental wellbeing and wrote a fantastic song ‘Monkey Mind’ on this topic. The hilarious music video for 'Monkey Mind' is forming part of their video contribution to the Northern Ireland Now collection.

SPUDS participants standing outside the Drumcree Community Centre where they buried a time capsule back in 2017, as part of another Nerve Centre project.


Our sixth community group was the wonderful Anaka Women’s Collective, a group who passionately campaign for refugee and migrant rights. This fantastic group meet in Redeemer Church in Belfast every Tuesday, sharing stories and food from their different cultures. Our Northern Ireland Now workshops were a part of their bustling Tuesday activities. We shared stories and video content from the groups previous projects such as ‘Grow’, a community garden in North Belfast where many of Anaka's members volunteer.

Anaka Collective participants discussing what is important to them to archive about their work together.


In May we travelled to Nerve Centre in Derry, meeting with a great cohort of students from a range of creative disciplines and backgrounds. Some participants were passionate about showcasing local LGBTQ+ stories they believed were missing from the Digital Film Archive. The group enjoyed discussing the local music scene, with a particular nod to the nearby The Undertones mural!

Gazing up at The Undertones, Derry participants take part in some interviews with one another as part of their fourth Northern Ireland Now workshop.

Coming up...

We are currently working with a group of participants in South Armagh at Bluebell Lane glamping site, set in the stunning Ring of Gullion. We have also began working with the fantastic group of creatives at Express Yourself Cafe in Belfast’s Black Box. This regular social cafe is an opportunity for adults with learning disabilities to engage with different creative practices, and there has been a great response to historical content from the Digital Film Archive so far!

We have plans to start workshops with a group from The Rainbow Project and Here NI Belfast, two wonderful LGBTQIA+ organisations in Belfast.

If you're interested in learning more about the project and seeing what has been contributed so far, come meet us at Docs Ireland Festival, Saturday 22 June, 3.45pm in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Tickets are pay what you can and can be booked here.

We are so excited to see what the next phase of the project holds. We will continue to develop our community partner relationships through screenings and social events, as well as engaging more new groups!

If you would like to know more about the Northern Ireland Now project or if you're part of a community group that would like to get involved, contact: