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Festival aims to bring cultures together through the arts

A loyalist flute band and Muslim musicians have come together in an unlikely partnership to launch Community Relations Week.

Guests at the launch of the week-long festival enjoyed a performance from Music Unite - a collaboration between members of the Shankill Defenders Flute Band and other artists from across the world.

Starting next Monday, almost 200 events will take place across Northern Ireland under the theme 'One Place, Many People' to celebrate diversity and to discuss what it means to share one place as different people.

Darren Ferguson, CEO and founder of Beyond Skin, one of the groups behind Music Unite, explained: "The project was developed to engage loyalist flute bands to try and see how we can move forward from the issues that have been recurring year after year regarding parades and stereotypes and to reflect the more positive side of loyalist flute bands, such as the music itself."

Next week, band members will tour Northern Ireland and discuss how they're trying to change negative perceptions of their music by working together with musicians from other cultures.

For eight months, the flute band has been working with musicians from Kurdistan, Jamaica, India, Ireland, Slovakia and Ghana.

Darren added: "The relationship between one of our musicians from Kurdistan and the band has been quite remarkable. He is Muslim and I think there is a shared empathy of how their identity has been portrayed negatively by the mainstream media."

Community groups, like Music Unite, public bodies, churches and voluntary organisations will stage events to challenge issues of cultural awareness, inclusion, identity and dealing with the past and address them through music, drama, film and sport.

Schools and colleges will also hold events to explore the diversity within their local communities and to help pupils be more inclusive.

Dominican College is holding an international food week and cultural diversity workshop and Fane Street Primary, Belfast, where 64% of pupils are from countries outside Northern Ireland, will hold a multicultural festival.


Artist Anushiya Sundaralingam

Artist Anushiya Sundaralingam

Artist Anushiya Sundaralingam

Jacqueline Irwin, chief executive of the Community Relations Council, said: "There is one message that we hope everyone will get from the week: nothing about the future can be taken for granted. The job of learning to live peacefully is not yet done and if we want this place to be positive and inclusive, we all have to play a part in making it so at village, town, city and regional levels."

For more information visit http://www.community-relations.org.uk/

Top five picks

1. Know Your Place Mystery Tour. Locations across Derry City and Strabane District Council area (bus pick-ups in Derry and Strabane) Sep 28, 9.30am-4.30pm. Free.

2. Belonging Project. Whiterock Library/Colin Glen Library, Belfast, Sep 28-October 4. Photo exhibition.

3. Make a Kolam. Ulster Museum, October 4, 1pm-4pm. Help to make a huge Kolam (artwork using coloured powder) in the Ulster Museum

4. Traveller Women's Choir. Belfast City Hospital foyer, September 29, 12.30pm.

5. Celebrating Diversity. Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Sep 30, 6-8pm. Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin will host music, dance and poetry.

Belfast Telegraph