Belfast Schools to Feature at World Music Expo

A music and social media project which brings together young people from Belfast and Sri Lanka will feature at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Budapest this week.

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Shalini Wickramasuriya and Jenni Barkley with pupils from Nettlefield Primary School

A music and social media project which brings together young people from Belfast and Sri Lanka will feature at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Budapest this week. 

Three schools from North and East Belfast have joined classrooms 3,000 miles away in Sri Lanka to create music and videos exploring post-conflict issues such as community relations and equality.  Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009 after 25-years and a death toll approaching 100,000.

Developed by Belfast-based ‘Beyond Skin’ and supported by Belfast Harbour, the project aims to tackle racism and sectarianism through the arts.  The work completed by Nettlefield and Cliftonville Primary Schools, and Ashfield Boys’ School, will be showcased to delegates at WOMEX by conference speaker Darren Ferguson from Beyond Skin with Shalini Wickramasuriya, CEO of The Music Project (Sri Lanka).

Mr Ferguson said: 

“The legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland presents many challenges and sharing these with people who have faced similar challenges, but within a very different cultural context, provides opportunities for growth and learning. Social media and the Internet often offer a superficial door to the wider world, but this initiative brings realness to the pupils’ connections with their global neighbours. We are delighted that Belfast Harbour has invested in this project and are thrilled to showcase the work of local schools to an international audience at WOMEX.  The young people involved have combined innovation and creativity to produce music with each other 3,000 miles apart, turning the classroom into an exciting global shared learning space.”

In addition to creating joint music and audio clips, the pupils also exchanged handmade gifts, letters and information about their respective cultures. 

Shalini Wickramasuriya, CEO of The Music Project (Sri Lanka), added:

"We are grateful that through our partnership with Beyond Skin and Belfast Harbour that the youth of tomorrow will recognize that they are global citizens who are empowered to harness their creativity, their identity and shared sense of community to participate on shared platform of digital creativity. We look forward to this collaborative partnership of discovery, different musical genres and harmony."

Jenni Barkley, Belfast Harbour’s Communications & Corporate Responsibility Manager, said:

“This is a great example of a global education project that gives local young people the chance to partner and build friendships with their peers in Sri Lanka. It also gives participants a different perspective on their own circumstances as they work with the Sri Lankan young people through digital media, Internet, music and art.  Belfast Harbour supports a wide range of initiatives for young people and we’re excited that this project will be showcased to a global audience.”

The concept behind the scheme is that young people, regardless of ability, position in society, or socio-economic status, have an inborn creative capacity.  Themes within the project will include Community Relations, Diversity, Equality, Self-Confidence and Language & Communication skills.

Such has been its success, the project is now being extended to include two youth clubs, Lagan Village in East Belfast and John Paul in North Belfast.