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Schoolgirls swap uniforms for a day in bid to explore our divided society

By Amanda Ferguson

A Catholic girl and a Protestant girl from Northern Ireland have swapped school uniforms in an effort to explore our divided society for a poignant new documentary.

The short film, In Peace Apart - Teaching Divided Histories, is part of a project run by the Nerve Centre in Londonderry, whose future work is under threat by Stormont arts budget cuts.

It features Courtney Cooke from Lisneal College, which is located in the mainly Protestant, Waterside area of the city, and Yvonne Weir from St Cecilia's College, which is located in the mainly Catholic, Bogside area.

The six-minute documentary has been entered into a Boston film competition next year.

The teenagers talk about The Walled City, as Derry is known, being divided on religious, geographical and cultural lines and speak of how it can be "Irish against British, Catholic against Protestant, Green against Blue".

The girls swap school uniforms and take a walk through the streets of the city to experience life for a while from another perspective.

The teenagers view the Peace Bridge, across the River Foyle, as a "symbol of a new beginning" and say that while their generation has not seen the violence and conflict of the past with their own eyes, they have been "shaped by its legacy".

On the subject of living in peace but living apart, the girls share their thoughts on growing up apart and pose a series of questions for consideration.

They are:

  • "Can we make sure the next generation does not grow up segregated, as we have?
  • "Wouldn't it be better if our schools weren't divided by religion, symbolised by colour?
  • "What if all the children starting school today in our country weren't separated like we were?
  • "What if they sat beside someone from a different religion on their first day of school?

One of the girls adds: "Does that not make sense? If we are to move forward together, surely that should be the first step?"

The Nerve Centre's Teaching Divided Histories programme uses digital technology to pass on knowledge of topics ranging from the civil rights movement during the conflict, the 1916 Easter Rising, the battle of the Somme and international conflict.

In Peace Apart - Teaching Divided Histories is also supported by the EU Regional Development Fund and the Special EU programmes body.

For more about the Nerve Centre's work, visit

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