History of Belfast’s Peace Walls Told Through Virtual Reality

23 March 2018

Director, Brendan McCourt and Community Relations Council representatives, Deirdre McBride and Peter Osborne.
Attendees at the launch of “When Will The Walls Come Down?”, a new 15-minute documentary by Brendan McCourt (New Red TV) funded through the Community Relations Council’s Media Grant Scheme.

A new documentary film tracing the history of Belfast’s peace walls through virtual reality (VR) has been created by a local filmmaker.

Funded through the Community Relations Council's annual Media Grant Scheme, the film, ‘When Will the Walls Come Down?’, directed by Brendan McCourt at New Red TV, opens with an aerial view of the Cupar Way peace wall which construction began on in 1969, almost five decades ago.

“Belfast has some 97 peace barriers,” the text on the opening scene reads.

When first constructed, the Cupar Way peace wall, and all peace walls throughout Belfast, were temporary structures. Now, almost 50 years on, the walls still exist, separating members of the Protestant and Catholic communities along contentious residential interfaces. In the film, a British Army General can be heard telling journalists the earliest stages of the walls, then barbed wire, were “very, very temporary.”

“This documentary, showcased through VR, is one that is a virtual experience for the viewer unless you live within these communities. For those people, the story it tells is a reality,” explains Director, Brendan McCourt.

“Some of these walls, despite only being temporary structures, have existed longer than the Berlin Wall which was demolished almost 30 years ago. For many young people in the area, the temporary walls are permanent. They have never known a time they didn’t cast a shadow over their communities.

“In the film we wanted to find out what is life like for young people who live in the shadows of the walls and to gauge their views on the future of the walls and whether or not they envisage a day when they’ll be dismantled.

“The film is about impact and understanding, immersing the viewer in the worlds of a 24-year-old Protestant mother and a 21-year-old Catholic youth worker, two neighbours separated by the walls.”

Commenting on the documentary, Peter Osborne, Chair of the Community Relations Council, said:

“Peace walls can’t become a new normal or segregation is normalised further. The film demonstrates the complexity of trying to remove such interface barriers while many people feel unsafe or when there continues to be uncertainty.

“The Community Relations Council Media Grant Scheme helps support creative media projects, and Brendan’s film certainly makes a unique and important contribution. The film shines a light on the negative social and economic overhang of peace walls on local communities either side of them. It challenges us all to do more to remove them.”

For more information and to view the film, visit youtube.com. A smartphone and VR headset are required to experience the full VR functionality of the film.

Click here to view the film on YouTube

For more information on the Community Relations Council, visit community-relations.org.uk.


Notes to editors:

About the film: Nearly 20 years after the historic Good Friday peace agreement, there are still some 66 ‘Peace’ walls dividing the communities in Belfast. Some have existed longer than the Berlin Wall and are now a major attraction for tourists from around the World. But, what is life like for young people who live in their shadow? Can they see a day when they will come down? Using the exciting new medium of Virtual Reality, this ground-breaking documentary completely immerses viewers in the world of two young people at the coalface, A 24 year old Protestant mother and a 21 year old Catholic youth worker. Taking storytelling to new levels of impact and understanding this film explains how the walls started as barbed wire in a street, separating neighbour from neighbour. A British Army general tells journalists, it will be “very, very temporary.”

About the CRC media grant: The 2017/18 media grant scheme was available to support a range of media projects including digital content projects, infographics, television, radio, video and podcasts. The scheme is primarily for the creation of new material but may include the diversification of existing resources to increase their use with appropriate audiences. The aim of the Media Grant 2017/2018 was to commission media projects which focused on the engagement of civil society to underpin the peace process and/or support the development of a more diverse society and support the TBUC strategy. Information about the 2018/19 media grant scheme will be published on the CRC website when this becomes available.

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