Music unites Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka

Arts Council of Northern Ireland,
10 February 2016, Northern Ireland

Beyond Skin are pleased to announce the next phase of the Parallel Versing project encompassing a large schools programme and various musician exchanges between Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.


Parallel Versing is a project using music to change the life trajectory of children whose quality of life has been impacted by the legacy of conflict. The project was developed in 2013 by intercultural arts organisation Beyond Skin & The Music Project organisation based in Sri Lanka. The project has been developing and expanding successfully over the past few years receiving global recognition with key support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast Harbour, Arts & Business and Esufally Foundation.


With a recent investment from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the Professional Arts Abroad Scheme and Belfast Harbour, the next phase of the project will start on 17th February. Beyond Skin CEO Darren Ferguson along with Beyond Skin facilitators and musicians Davy Bates & Jan Uhrin will travel to Sri Lanka later this month to work with 5 schools. They will also be joined by David Thomson from the Shankill Road Defenders Flute Band who is involved in another Beyond Skin flagship project, 'Music Unite'.


Fionnuala Walsh, Head of Participatory Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:


“The Arts Council is delighted to support this innovative, international project which provides a wonderful opportunity for young people in Northern Ireland to engage with young people in Sri Lanka through music.  The arts have an intrinsic value in allowing us to approach and understand difficult, complex issues and these musical exchanges will inspire these young people, stimulate discussion around the challenges they face and encourage a continuing love of music and creativity."


Music Unite is a project developed by both the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and Beyond Skin which engages with Loyalist Flute Bands. The project aims to provide an opportunity, through music, for loyalist band members and musicians from different cultures to develop relationships, enabling a shared peaceful expression and celebration of identity whilst challenging the stereotypes that are often associated with Loyalist bands.


The Music Unite Project is a very unique and pioneering model that was started in January 2015 with the Shankill Road Defenders (SRD) Flute Band.


The project continues in 2016 with new flute bands joining the project in a number of public events.


Beyond Skin CEO Darren Ferguson said


“As an organisation we are exploring how to develop links between our flagship partnership programmes, Parallel Versing, WOMADNI, Music Unite and Homely Planet. The Parallel Versing project has produced some wonderful shared music, but admittedly it has been exporting and sharing more of the traditional Irish culture to Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka has some wonderful marching bands so when we started Music Unite we knew it would be a great opportunity to share and introduce an equally important part of Northern Ireland culture through the music of Loyalist Flute Bands. I have no doubt this trip will be a catalyst for positive change strengthening again how the Arts enrich lives and are fundamental to our better quality of life”


Lord Alderdice, Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building said:


“I have long been of the view that the arts, especially music have key role to play in processes of healing. We are delighted that through Music Unite project we are beginning to find a new route to peace and relationship building in the divided society, here in Northern Ireland and beyond and a new way of working together and connecting people and communities at that more fundamental level where music can engage all.”


In Sri Lanka Darren, Davy, Jan & David will be working alongside music teachers from the Music Project in schools in Kurunegala and Mullativu whilst also linking with marching and brass bands in Lakdas. Later in March music teachers from Sri Lanka will come to Northern Ireland to visit some of the 12 schools currently involved in the project whilst also engaging in Music Unite special events.


The Music Project’s Shalini Wickramasuriya said "The journey with Beyond Skin of addressing sectarianism and understanding social cohesion through schools and education has established a shared legacy, and we look forward to consolidating ties and ensuring a sustainable partnership for the benefit of the youth of today."