Capturing the Past project brings generations together

Monday January 30th 2023

Members of the Young @ Heart group with the finished mural.

‘Capturing the Past,’ an intergenerational history project led by Heather Carson, Parish Development Officer, Church of Ireland in Lower Shankill, has created a lasting legacy. [SEE PHOTO GALLERY BELOW]

A podcast featuring stories collated by the parish Young @ Heart Group, with members of the congregations of St Michael’s and St Stephen & St Luke’s and children from Malvern Primary School, along with artwork and recordings of old Belfast songs, are now being shared with other groups.

‘Capturing the Past’ was initiated by Heather and David Corscadden, formerly of Bauer Media, who Heather was introduced to by Keeva Watson from ROC NI who had done a previous community project with David.

The project was funded by the Awards for All grants programme. It was supposed to take place in 2020 to celebrate the 150th year of St Stephen’s but due to Covid-19 was delayed until 2022.

‘Capturing the Post’ began with reminiscence sessions during Young @ Heart meetings, led by arts facilitator Dr Geraldine Gallagher, who specialises in the older people sector. Participants were encouraged to recall memories of family, school, work and social life in years gone by, show old pictures and play music from the past.

“There was much laughter and joy and we sang some of the old Belfast street songs from way back,” said Heather.

“We then visited Malvern Primary School where some of our ladies, particularly one who had gone to the school as a child when it was Hemsworth Square School and known as ‘the Henhouse,’ spoke about where they lived as a child and what life was like back then, their home, games they played, food etc.

“There was much laughter at some of the stories, particularly queuing on the sofa for the tin bath in front of the fire and not being happy if you were the last one in! And having to go to a cold outside toilet in the middle of the night!”

The primary school children made sketches based on the stories and these were turned into pictures for an art project.

Capturing the Past was an inter-generational project.

David and Heather recorded some of the wonderful stories shared by Young @ Heart members and members of the congregations. Heather wrote a script and David edited the recordings, pulling them together into a podcast. They sourced photographs of the past along with photographs provided by some of the Young @ Heart group, and these were overlaid on the presentation.

The art project was led by Dr Gallagher and involved several sessions in COILS’ afterschool club where young and not-so-young had fun working together to produce a ‘stained glass window’. Each picture in the ‘window’ tells the story of a particular memory for one of the Young @ Heart members.

“We had a lovely celebration event in St Stephen’s on December 22, attended by everyone involved in the project along with some friends and family,” Heather said.

“Two of our ladies, Norma Clucas and Ella Lyle, along with two girls from Malvern Primary School spoke about their participation in the artwork and what some of the pictures represented from their lives and we watched the podcast video on the church TV screens.”

Heather, David and Dr Gallagher spoke about various aspects of the project and the Ven Barry Forde, Archdeacon of Belfast, congratulated everyone and closed the celebration in prayer before lunch.

The podcast and recordings of stories and the singing of old Belfast songs are now on a private YouTube link which is available to the families and friends of those taking part.

Heather added: “The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland has asked if it can retain a copy of the podcast for the future which is wonderful. I will be going to a number of groups to show the podcast video and the artwork and to talk about the project over the next couple of months.”

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