Young people learn power of coming together: Game of Three Halves at 4 Corners Festival
by Kellie BANCALARI
4 February 2022
The 4 Corners Festival brought together youth aged 11–14 from each corner of Belfast Thursday night to try their hands at rugby, GAA, and football. The event, through a community relations activity, also helped participants understand the power of coming together to overcome shared challenges.
The ‘Game of Three Halves’ was in partnership with PeacePlayers Northern Ireland, an organisation aimed at helping “youth challenge religious divisions, prejudice, and sectarianism through sport”. This 4 Corners Festival event was specifically designed for young people.
Gareth Harper, the managing director of PeacePlayers Northern Ireland, told Shared Future News, “The great thing about the Game of Three Halves is it unites kids around sport and shows that sports are a great way to break down stereotypes and break down the prejudice some people have.”
Harper went on to say that those who come from Protestant families traditionally have never had the opportunity to play Gaelic football, and likewise Catholic participants have usually never played rugby. PeacePlayers, he explained, breaks down this divide by providing “the opportunity to play those sports and to learn that those sports aren’t just for one tradition or the other”.
At the start of the evening, participants were greeted by Ed Petersen, a 4 Corners Festival director and member of its planning committee, who explained the connection between the night’s activities with the festival’s theme of “Common Ground, Common Good”. He told them, “Sports is probably the best way of bringing people together.”
Petersen later explained to Shared Future News, “We in the 4 Corners Festival would really want to try or, you know, to explore all different means of bringing people together. This has been one way of using sport and a group like PeacePlayers to communicate something of that message, while again hopefully helping the young people just to have a fun evening.”
The over 40 participants were broken into four teams, evenly mixed to include members that hailed from each of the four corners of Belfast. Each team took turns rotating between four stations, which included GAA, rugby, football, and community relations stations. These stations were run by PeacePlayers staff and mentors.
While the three sports stations helped participants learn about new traditions and hone their athletic skills, the community relations activity dove deeper into the shared experiences of living in Belfast while also focusing on team building. In the last activity, participants were asked to share the issues that they faced in their area. They brought up problems like mental health, sexism, racism, drug abuse, and sectarianism.
Joanne Fitzpatrick, the PeacePlayers staff leading this particular activity, helped students understand that even though these issues may seem unique to their place in Belfast, they aren’t. The problems plaguing West Belfast are, in fact, the same issues that plague East Belfast. Fitzpatrick ended the session by explaining, “We can be more powerful if we tackle these issues together.”