Acknowledging deep hurt and pain: Day of Reflection at Belfast City Hall

Kate TURNER (Healing Through Remembering). Day of Reflection event. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster

Acknowledging deep hurt and pain: Day of Reflection at Belfast City Hall
by Allan LEONARD
21 June 2023

Belfast City Council hosted an annual Day of Reflection event for a second year, providing an opportunity for people and communities across the city to acknowledge the deep hurt and pain caused by the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. After introductory remarks, a short film was repeated during the day, interspersed with readings from a variety of authors. Attendees were invited to share their hopes for the future by adding a leaf to a “Message Tree”, and a number of support organisations were available.

David ROBINSON (Good Relations Officer, Belfast City Council). Day of Reflection event. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster

The council’s Good Relations Officer, David Robinson, opened the event with welcoming remarks, quoting the council’s political party group leaders’ joint statement:

“We acknowledge that many people throughout the city suffered deeply as a result of the conflict. As civic leaders, we hope that by hosting this annual event and providing a quiet, safe space, it will give people an opportunity to reflect and remember in a way which is personal to them.”

Robinson added that today is to be seen “as an inclusive and positive experience that emphasises a commitment to a peaceful society”.

Robinson screened a short film made by Healing Through Remembering. In the film, the narrator says, “Maya Angelou wrote, ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’ It takes courage to listen to other stories, other views, other histories. To reflect upon our own lives and the lives of others. Others, who would be strangers in my life and community. But not strangers to the hurt, the loss, the pain, that I feel.”

Laura MORGAN. Day of Reflection event. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster

Writer, playwright, and filmmaker, Laura Morgan, read poetry and prose throughout the day, from the aforementioned Maya Angelou as well as John O’Donoghue, Denise Levertov, and W.B. Yeats. For example, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by Yeats:

“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

Memory scrapbooks. Day of Reflection event. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster

Visitors called in throughout the day, availing of support services provided by the mental health charity, Inspire Wellbeing, and by the Victims and Survivors Service. In addition, the arts and digital outreach social enterprise company, WheelWorks, set up a craft arts table where people could create paper crane origami sculptures. These and other messages of peace were hung on the branches of a “Message Tree” as well as virtual branches of a large canvass by Healing Through Remembering. Examples included: “Only by understanding the past can we truly move forward into the future together” and, more personally, “The pain of missing you does not get less. Life just grows around the grief… but I wish you were a part of these new memories.”

Message Tree. Day of Reflection event. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster
Messages added to Healing Through Remembering canvas. Day of Reflection event. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster

In his closing remarks, David Robinson thanked all of the day’s visitors and everyone who made the space today a safe yet productive one. He said to all that the Day of Reflection didn’t end with this event, as the city hall building will be illuminated in yellow tonight during the hours of darkness, “reminding us of the hours of light and of hope”.

Belfast City Hall illuminated in yellow lights for Day of Reflection. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland. © Allan LEONARD @MrUlster
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