Creggan Cultural Summer Scchol – A Lesson in Shared heritage

July 29, 2013

Creggan Church of Ireland in south Armagh has some of the most beautiful scenery and interesting history throughout Northern Ireland and so was the ideal backdrop for the Creggan Cultural Summer School which took place in June. The project was managed by the PEACE III Southern Partnership and supported by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (PEACE III) managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

Over three days visitors to Creggan Church of Ireland and Visitor Centre received a warm welcome and were able to be part of a number of events which were designed to cater for everyone’s taste.  Folk enjoyed talks on the townlands and the history of the people of south Armagh, from the O’Neills to Reverend Daniel Gunn Brown.  They were entertained with traditional music and song representing the cultural diversity which exists within the south Armagh area.

One of the highlights of the Cultural Summer School was the tour of the Creggan Graveyard which demonstrates the truly shared space that Creggan represents.  People of all creeds and class are buried in one small area sharing a space which, in life, was all too often contested.  The tour culminated in a walk to the walled gardens, accessed through the church grounds.  This little gem is an idyllic retreat and, from its amphitheatre to its neat lawns, it has a stillness that gives an air of secrecy and peace.

The finale of the Creggan Cultural Summer School was a concert involving young people, from Markethill to Crossmaglen, who played a range of music representing both Irish and Ulster Scots traditional music.  The large audience was also treated to the expert interpretation of traditional music genre by Zoe Conway and John McIntyre.  Zoe, who is used to more prestigious surroundings such as Carnegie Hall or the Kremlin Palace, and John, who played with The Revs, gave a fantastic performance on violin and guitar presenting a contemporary snapshot of traditional music.  Their music found a common ground for the audience with the inclusion of Irish reels and Scottish airs as well as a haunting rendition of Úirchill An Chreagáin, the poem made famous by Art McCooey (also buried in Creggan Graveyard).

It is rare that such talent and entertainment is available to the public without charge but due to the hard work and enthusiasm of the local community and the support of the PEACE III Southern Partnership, all elements of the Summer School were free to the public.

It really was an eye opener and let’s hope it can be repeated in the future.

The project was managed by PEACE III Southern Partnership’s Engaging in Good Relations and Investing In Our Future priorities and was funded through the European Union’s PEACE III Programme.  A spokesperson for the Partnership said;

“We are pleased to be able to offer support to the local community representatives who organised this series of events.  They clearly have a real appreciation for the area they live in and want to share it with the wider community. They have used the heritage and culture of the area and crafted events which demonstrate how much our communities have in common.”

Meanwhile Kenny Donaldson, Secretary of Creggan Church of Ireland Select Vestry commented:

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to work in partnership with the Women and Family Health Initiative (and Una Walsh in particular) in showcasing all that Creggan has to offer.  The area has a diverse and rich Past but through the continued presence of the Church also has an important present and future in serving the Church of Ireland community of the area.  Because we are confident in who we are, we feel able to share what we have with our neighbours whose roots are also linked to this site which is genuinely; ‘a shared space’.”

Una Walsh, Women and Family Heath Initiative said;

“A sense of pride in place, heritage, culture and townland and a confidence to move forward creates a truly shared space.  Creggan Summer School was a special event in a special place.”