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Ballymena festival to explore the 'forgotten' soldiers of World War 1

Rachel McNabb

Reporter:

Rachel McNabb

TWO community based organisations in Ballymena have collaborated to showcase a memorable historical commemoration to encourage shared dialogue around World War 1.

The Carson Project and the Inter Ethnic Forum are hosting a unique Shared History Festival at the Braid Arts Centre from Thursday, November 22- Saturday, November 24. The Festival will explore a range of topics including eye-opening historical accounts of the invaluable contribution that over one million Indian troops made during the conflict.

The Carson Project has been operating in the town since 2009 and is supported through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Impact Programme, which aims to deliver positive community transformation through sensitive interventions with those who may have not traditionally participated in peace building or reconciliation activities.

Dr Adrian Johnston, International Fund for Ireland Chairman, said: “Reaching out to communities who often feel that the Peace Process has left them behind is an important part of our work. This project operates in an area that still faces division but thanks to this innovative approach culminating in the festival, it is clear that sharing experiences of culture, history and identity are having a positive effect.”

Jim Finlay, Chairman of the Carson Project said: “We facilitate a number of events, training opportunities and workshops throughout the year that help to promote intra community engagement and understanding of culture and identity. The idea for this new festival came about from working with the Inter Ethic Forum. It was through general discussions that we soon realised that both communities had fought courageously and shared an immense sense of loss during the Great War. Both groups have been working together for a number of months and activities including familiarisation visits to The Somme Heritage Centre and Indian Community Centre.”

The total contribution from India was more than combined efforts of South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The largest volunteer army during World War 1 were men in turbans fighting alongside British soldiers in the same trenches. They have been largely forgotten, both by Britain and India.

Ivy Goddard MBE, Project Director at the Inter Ethnic Forum said: “Collaborating with the Carson Project on a regular basis has allowed for a better understanding of our Shared History. As many as 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war and a comparable number were wounded. Their stories and their heroism, have long been omitted from popular histories of the war, or relegated to footnotes.

“The groups have worked in partnership with local artist Lucy Craig to create a special wreath that commemorates Indian and British soldiers. It features marigolds and poppies intertwined to symbolise shared experiences of the war. We have been really encouraged by the town’s involvement in this initiative and believe it is a stepping stone towards our goal of working in partnership with other organisations in the area.”

The festival is supported by a number of partners including; International Fund for Ireland, Mid & East Antrim Borough Council and The Executive Office.

For more information contact: Natasha( Inter Ethic Forum) 028 2564 3605, Natasha.taylor@interethnicforum. org.uk or Jim McIlroy (Carson Project) 07856 399282 jimmcilroy666@yahoo.co.uk

Festival at a glance

Thursday, November 22, 7pm: Launch event with local historian Philip Orr sharing the invaluable contribution Indians made to World War 1.

Friday, November 23, 7pm- Hari Budha Magar former Corporal with Royal Gurka Rifles – medically discharged after losing both his legs above the knee in Afghanistan in 2010 shares what courage and determination can accomplish. Internationally-renowned storyteller Liz Weir and fiddle player Emma Mulholland will perform ‘All for the Dead Man’s Penny’ -a tale that links past and present, a tale of lost youth and memories that span the generations.

Saturday, November 24, 11am-4pm: Exhibition of World War 1 memorabilia and activities for all the family.

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