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Building the dream in a theatre of peace: Community arts management and the position of the practitioner in Northern Ireland

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This article addresses the practice of community drama as an aspect of conflict transformation in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the peace process established by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, particularly examining the tensions between public policy, arts management, and the experiences of practitioners and participants. The key focus will be an analysis of the ways in which organizational contexts have enhanced or restricted the potential for critically reflective practice. As has been discussed in a previous article by M. Jennings and A. Baldwin, the prioritization within cultural development organizations of adhering to ‘top-down’ funding agendas and evaluation criteria has neglected consideration of the real challenges faced and the achievements attained by facilitators and participants within the context of specific projects. The complexity of the relationships between artists, cultural development organizations, funding bodies and the state have made it difficult for community artists to establish and transmit the values and significance of their own practice. The tensions between these stakeholders have undermined both the efficacy of community arts practice and the credibility of cultural development policy within contemporary Northern Ireland. The controversies, scepticism and even bomb attacks on the offices of the UK City of Culture company in Derry/Londonderry during the last two years indicate the risks of failure in these areas.
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Keywords: Northern Ireland; arts management; community drama/community-based theatre; conflict transformation; cultural development; practitioner

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northumbria University

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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  • The Journal of Arts and Communities seeks to provide a critical examination of the practices known as community or participatory arts, encompassing a field of work defined for this purpose as incorporating active creative ollaboration between artists and people in a range of communities.The journal will take a cross-artform and interdisciplinary approach,including work happening in performance, visual arts and media,writing, multimedia and collaboration involving digital technology and associated forms. In part this will create an archive that will document work which can otherwise be ephemeral
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