We are proposing to deliver a unique social and natural heritage research and training project over a period of two years to afford members of our community and a select range of community organisations the opportunity to engage with their local heritage and also to develop their skills around gathering, curating and digitising various different elements of heritage based projects.
It is hoped that this process will help to raise awareness of the unique and unprecedented heritage that exists in our area and the crucial importance of preserving and maintaining it in order to make it accessible as a community resource in order to embed and strengthen their connection to local place.
- Our heritage focus is the unique history of the Upper Springfield area which has a social, cultural and environmental treasure trove of untapped heritage waiting to be explored and excavated as a valuable community resource. This area, one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas in the north of Ireland, is also unique for its ability to showcase exemplary self-help community initiatives spanning over fifty years
- We want to focus on the unique natural, social and cultural heritage of this area and use it as a vehicle to develop and improve the community cohesion, self-respect and solidarity within the area with a main focus on individual and community well- being running throughout the project.
- The proposed natural and social heritage project will build and expand upon earlier youth heritage projects carried out through young people who work with Glor na Móna. The social and natural history of the Black Mountain including its tradition of farming; Linen industry outputs; wildlife, flora and fauna as well as the history of environmental activism that helped return part of the mountain into community ownership will be further uncovered.
- In addition, the Upper Springfield’s inspiring community regeneration history of worker co-operatives that provided hope and employment during an incredibly difficult period after the outbreak of brutal conflict in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s has also underwent initial excavation and exploration but will be significantly enhanced through our current proposal.
- In addition, with the help of project partners, our proposal will also shed light on a range of transformational community development initiatives such including an Irish Medium School, a locally based GAA club and one of the most stablished community development projects in the area.
Need and Opportunity
- In this era of globalisation, where the very idea of community and rootedness is becoming more elusive and challenging, the individual act of reclaiming, preserving and celebrating the history and heritage of our own local place is both a reaction and a form of resistance against the dominant world-view. This very process facilitates and generates activists, fosters empowerment and self-worth, provides inspiration for the establishment of organisations, and community events that give people hope by involving them in their own destiny.
- This approach can be particularly powerful when it engages those based in the most marginalised communities. It fosters empowerment, self-help, consistency, co-operation and pride in our native place. A case in point would be the Upper Springfield area, one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas inthe north of Ireland, but also unique for its ability to showcase exemplary self-help community initiatives spanning over fifty years.
- This project aims to utilise and maximise this unique community history through empowering and enabling local people to excavate, explore, curate and reclaim their own heritage and make it available and accessible to the wider local community. The Upper Springfield area is currently in the throes of a mental health epidemic with over 50% of those over 50 on anti-depressants while we also have one of the highest suicide rates in Europe, with a disproportionate impact on young people. Socio-economic marginalisation coupled with the myriad of psychological problems emanating, as is common in all post-conflict societies, from this particularly traumatic history.
- These factors have led to the erosion of community identity and solidarity which in turn has fostered widespread alienation amongst a community beginning to feel more and more distanced and detached from the native place. We believe that uncovering our unique heritage through participatory methodologies can help break the culture of silence and increasing levels of loneliness and isolation being felt in working class communities such as the Upper Springfield.
- By reconnecting people to their own history through working collectively and in partnership with a range of individuals and local groups and native place, we aim to re-instil pride of place and maximise the opportunities for community education, environmental sustainability and well-being emanating from this fascinating history.