Belfast’s Interface Diaries

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

They stared wide-eyed into a computer screen – facing ‘the other community’ for the first time – asking questions they’d never uttered before – hearing answers that would change their lives.

Interface Diaries is a project which brings groups of teenagers from across divides in Belfast into direct contact.  Set up by Californian film-maker Will Maloney, with the support of Lamb Films,  the project creates opportunities for young people to chat using the safe space of video diaries.

Piloted in north Belfast it allows teenagers from both sides of interfaces to ask the uncomfortable questions of each other – and then digest the responses.

“These young kids get cast down upon but they realise the problems in their communities,” explains Will. “There is also the sense that they don’t have a way to express their concerns and feel trapped – surrounded by ‘the other community’.

“It’s so unfortunate to hear that – but yet these kids were so eager to have someone ask them these questions – to have a voice.”

Young people from Ardoyne Youth Providers Forum and the Shankill Area Partnership have participated in 8 weeks of video diaries, four weeks of  group work, culminating in a trip to Scotland to take part in anti-sectarian work-shops.

For teenagers like Daniel from the Shankill the project has been life-altering.  Before, Ardoyne was always the side of the road that was off limits… And after?

“I can honestly say the group changed my life.  It’s given me the chance to meet new friends, change the way our communities think of each other and let everyone know there is a chance to move forward.

This attitude was mirrored by 17-year-old Cory from Ardoyne – who had lived with interface trouble his whole life  - but after?

“I joined Interface Diaries because I wanted to get to know more about the other side, people I’ve never met.  It’s showed me we really are the same in most ways and it’s all in your head!”

There were similar views expressed by 16-year-old Natasha from Ardoyne: “I would have been very bitter towards Protestants before this, but I tell you now – it’s a whole different side.”

She’s now forged a friendship with 15-year-old Melissa from the Shankill; a friendship which would have been unlikely it it hadn’t been for this project.

For Will Maloney stories like this are the motivation that drives Interface Diaries. He’s now keen to expand it to other interface communities across Belfast.

“It’s important to deal within communities.  You’re not going to solve their problems on a residential weekend miles away – these problems are going to be resolved by engaging within communities.

“It’s so important that these little windows are opened.”


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