Community Innovation Practitioners: Northern Ireland

The Market: A People’s Tapestry

Áine Brady’s CIP research is embedded in the heart of the Market area of Belfast, where residents have been exploring intergenerational experiences of trauma and substance abuse. Working in partnership with the Market Development Association and creative facilitator Matt Faris, Áine has worked with the community and cross sector stakeholders to co-design five months of workshops that have nurtured the creative expression of residents. These workshops culminated in ‘The Market: A People’s Tapestry’, a co-created photographic exhibition unveiled in the centre of Belfast’s community arts scene on 12 April.

Every frame in the exhibition tells a story, creating a tapestry of experience of life in the Market, captured through the lens of its own people. Faces of friends and family in the photographs are interwoven with verses of poetry that convey the hopes and fears of Market residents, as well as their dreams and aspirations for the future.

Via QCAP, Queen’s University Belfast YouTube

Hearing from some of the residents that contributed to the exhibition offered a sense of the power that this kind of work can have in connecting people to where they live, and the people they share that space with. The exhibition is a celebration of resilience, and testament to the power of unity and creativity in transforming lives and communities.

Local Legends Leading the Charge

Jim Donaghey’s CIP research explores the heritage and future of the Portrush skateboarding scene, and the ongoing work to build a permanent skatepark. He examines how local skaters have used culture to carve out space for the skate community by creating brand new ramps for the temporary skate zone designated by the local council, while advocating for and passing on skills for future generations of skaters to come. Slainey Brown, a local filmmaker who has been documenting Portrush’s skate subculture for over two decades, showed us the construction of the new park and the delivery of slabs of granite. Donated by a local business, the granite was transformed into a gleaming ramp surface with the help of Jim and a crew of local skaters, all captured on film by Slainey. Slainey’s videos represent the passion and dedication that fuels the skater subculture in Portrush and profiles the skills involved in the community including the help of local carpenters who have been contributing ramp renovation.

Representation Matters

Both Jim and Áine’s work in Northern Ireland demonstrate the return on investment in arts and humanities research and how this is magnified when it is embedded in communities across the nations and regions of the UK. One of the key recommendations from the AHRC Creative Communities 2023 deep-dive report was to tackle a lack of representation of devolved regions and nations of the UK in arts and humanities research. This aligns with the UK Government goal to redistribute R&D activity across the UK, moving away from a concentration in South East England. By mandating geographical spread, the assessment criteria for awarding the CIP Pilot has ensured that we have a UK wide evidence base of what works and a growing sense of shared challenges and opportunities across the CIP cohort.

The CIP Pilot is an innovative research project where five Community Innovation Practitioners (CIPs) are embedded in collaborative cross-sector research until September 2024, capturing knowledge about co-creation and partnerships in community-based R&D.  For more information visit the CIP Pilot webpage.


Brought to you by