Easter Rising

1916: Creative Centenaries programme focus on inclusive history

John Monaghan
19 March, 2016 01:00

INTERPRETATIONS of the tumultuous year of 1916 are as wide and varied as the Irish weather, but a new commemorative project is aiming to bring together dividing views in one space.

The Creative Centenaries programme, which is being led by the Nerve Centre in Derry, states that it aims to "explore multiple interpretations" in an "inclusive and respectful way".

Events, exhibitions and workshops are taking place right up until November looking at not only 1916, but focusing on the 'Decade of Centenaries' from 1912 and its impact in shaping the political and historical narrative of the island.

With international interest in the period growing as a number of key anniversaries approach, the Creative Centenaries website has developed a plethora of resources, including interactive time lines of the decade, teaching tool kits and educational comics.

David Lewis, director of communications and digital content at the Nerve Centre, said: "The aim of Creative Centenaries is to open up opportunities for debate, discussion and exploration of events such as the Easter Rising and Battle of the Somme, in an inclusive, respectful way."

Mr Lewis said that the aim of the project is to "pull a lot of organisations into one place so that the public can see that there are a lot of good things going on."

He added: "There are a lot of organisations involved in events and we are helping them to promote them."

After working in the sector for a quarter of a century, the project was a natural fit for the Nerve Centre.

"Ten years ago we were working on producing CDs on 1916, and we have quite a long track record of looking at these anniversaries," Mr Lewis said. "The project has been going for two to three years now, and of course 2016 is a pivotal year, but there is more to it than just those two dates of the Somme and the Rising."

Major exhibitions will be held in the Tower Museum in Derry, running from April to November, and at the Ulster Museum in Belfast from June until September.

The theme of the exhibition at the Ulster Museum is creativity in 1916, with the focus on the creative spark of each individual who plays a part in making history.

The experience of participants in wars or rebellions across the globe who have told their story through personal diaries, drawing or audio recordings will feature in the exhibition.

Video courtesy of Creative Centenaries/The Nerve Centre

Five zones will bring together extensive photographic and video archive material from leading heritage organisations including the Imperial War Museum, National Museums Northern Ireland, National Library of Ireland, and PRONI.

A wide range of dramas, films and lectures will also attempt to tell the story of a defining decade.

The Linen Hall Library in Belfast will host a drama performance, entitled 'Staging 1916', on Wednesday March 30.

A series of talks on various aspects of the period will examine angles such as unionist responses to the Easter Rising, the role of women in the rebellion and how the Indian nationalist movement was inspired by the Rising.

Meanwhile, the outreach strand will use new digital technologies to engage thousands of young people and adults. The outreach programme will target urban areas in Belfast and Derry, with free workshops in schools and community settings, and resources such as iBooks detailing the events of 1916.

Mr Lewis said: "Outreach and education is important to us, as people are exploring the past but also learning new digital skills. That is really where Nerve Centre is bringing its expertise."

As part of the educational outreach plans, Creative Centenaries has also developed two animated films charting both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

The films make use of rich archive imagery to bring the events from 100 years ago to life through a unique method of 2.5D projection.

Paul Mullan, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "It is with thanks to National Lottery players that we can support these exciting plans to revisit our history, using new and exciting techniques that will interest and inspire a wide range of audiences."

The Community Relations Council, which has supported Creative Centenaries with a grant, said the project offered "a diverse range" of activities in "this highly significant centenary year."

Chairman Peter Osborne said: "An important focus for CRC’s work in recent years has been on supporting new ways to engage with commemoration to ensure that the region’s divided past does not undermine our ability to live well together in the future."

The Creative Centenaries project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Community Relations Council, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Derry City and Strabane District Council.


  • The 'Making History' Exhibition, a major exhibition opening at the Ulster Museum in early June 2016 exploring how a struggle over national identity drove the creative forces of social change, technological invention, and artistic innovation in Ireland in 1916.
  • Digital Fabrication family day in the Ulster Museum on Saturday March 19 with Nerve Centre’s 'FabLab', encouraging families to explore museum objects using the latest in digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printers and laser cutters.
  • Kabosh Theatre Company will present 'The Box', a multi-artform production bringing to life the incredible personal archive of First World War nurse Olive Swanzy, written by Carlo Gebler and directed by Paula McFetridge.
  • Quercus Ensemble will showcase its production '1916 Remembered in Music and Poetry' on June 4 and 5. The show includes performances of Bax’s Elegiac Trio, 'Across a Clear Blue Sky' by Ian Wilson, and Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin, as well as poetry by Francis Ledwidge, Rupert Brooke and others.
  • 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary, has a number of major events and new commissions taking place across Northern Ireland including 'Shelter', by artist Anne Tallentire, exploring the architectural legacy of the Nissen hut, in a co-commission with Nerve Centre.
  • 'The WW1 Years and More', is a series of participative concerts to take place at Belfast International Arts Festival, featuring award-winning New York performer Taylor Mac and Radio Relay, with artists Graham Fagen, Paddy Bloomer, Gareth Moore, Philip Hession and Mhairi Sutherland exploring historic moments in the development of radio.
19 March, 2016 01:00 Easter Rising