Circle of Learning 2016/2017

Circle of Learning 2016/2017

Circle of Learning Celebration in Seamus Heaney ‘The Homeplace’ Centre

The celebration event was the final meeting for the 16 groups that took part in the 2017 Circle of Learning programme. Groups represented were from Lisburn, Lurgan, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. The conference theme focus was ‘A divided Northern Ireland in a dividing Europe’ and the keynote speakers were Dr Anthony Soares, Deputy Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, and William Devas, CEO Glencree Centre for Reconciliation.

The event was opened by the High Hopes Choir who are a groups of homeless people brought together by the music and hope the choir offers. The musical director Dr Phil Brennan has been involved in the project from the start and for most in the choir the trip to the conference was facilitated by BBC Journalist Mark Carruthers.

To view a photo gallery of the event click here

Below is the conference agenda.

 ‘A Divided Northern Ireland in a Dividing Europe’


10am: Registration Tea/Coffee

10.30am: Welcome and Introductions by Emer Lyttle, Project Manager and Mark Carruthers BBC Journalist.Mark joined BBC Northern Ireland in 1989 and since then he has presented countless radio and television programmes. He has presented many television political programmes including Sunday Politics, Stormont Today and the weekly flagship programme The View. In recent years his commitments have included Good Morning Ulster, Let’s Talk, Spotlight and BBC Newsline. Mark has presented special television reports for BBC Newsline from India and Sri Lanka, and in 2007 he was a guest speaker at an international conference on journalism and conflict resolution in Colombia. He was nominated for a Royal Television Society award for his work in 2003, and in 2005 he and Donna Traynor lifted a prestigious Irish Film and Television Award for Best News Programme. Mark studied political science at Queen’s University Belfast, graduating in 1987. In 1989 he was awarded a Master’s degree in Irish politics. Beyond politics, he is a passionate advocate of the arts. Mark announced his retirement as chairman of the board of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 2015. A passionate advocate of theatre and the arts in Northern Ireland, Mark  has been closely associated with the Lyric for many years and played a crucial leadership role in overseeing the construction and opening of the new theatre in 2011. He is also a former chairman of Tinderbox Theatre Company and has served on the boards of the Old Museum Arts Centre and the Ireland Romania Cultural Foundation. His book, Alternative Ulsters – Conversations on Identity, a collection of interviews with a series of high profile individuals with significant Ulster connections, was published by Liberties Press in October 2013. He is also co-editor, with Stephen Douds, of Stepping Stones: The Arts in Ulster 1971-2001 which was published by Blackstaff Press in 2001. He is a founder of Cultural Resolution, which published a collection of essays – Re-imagining Belfast: a manifesto for the arts – in October 2003.Mark was awarded an OBE for services to Drama in Northern Ireland in the 2011 New Year Honours. Married with three children, he lives in south Belfast.

10.45am: Choral performance by High Hopes Choir .The idea of the High Hopes Choir was the brainchild of David Brophy, conductor of the RTE Light Orchestra, of International renown, and continues today as the lead conductor and musical director of the High Hopes Choir nationally. David approached RTE with the concept of a choir composed of homeless people, the marginalised and those who have experienced homelessness at some stage in their lives. It initially began in Dublin with the help of organisations such as Focus Ireland, Simon Community and St. Vincent de Paul. RTE enthusiastically supported the concept and in turn Tyrone productions developed a series of three episodes for national television. A further fourth T.V programme demonstrated the fantastic progression and personal development and achievements of the choir both individually and collectively.

11.15am: Keynote Speech by Anthony Soares. Anthony is Deputy Director at the Centre for Cross Border Studies, in Co. Armagh, leading the Centre’s Research & Policy team. His role includes the development and advocacy of policies at regional, national and European levels that support sustainable cross-border and transnational cooperation. This has increasingly led to coordinating CCBS’s responses to the UK’s referendum on EU membership and its aftermath, publishing a series of Briefing Papers, submitting evidence to parliamentary committees in both Westminster and Dublin, and consulting with a range of political representatives and organisations.

11.30am: Keynote Speech by William Devas.William has beenCEO of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Co. Wicklow, for the past three years. William is a trained mediator, dialogue and storytelling facilitator and has been working in peacebuilding since 2010. Following a few years in hotel management, tourism and large event management, William spent eight years working in International Humanitarian Aid and Development travelling widely in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He was brought up in England, studied in Scotland and lives in Dublin.

11.45am: Short Comfort Break

12pm: Panel Questions for Anthony Soares, William Devas and Peter Sheridan.

Q&A Session hosted by Mark Carruthers

12.45:Closing Remarks by Peter Sheridan CEO of Co-operation Ireland, Peter joined the peace-building charity Co-operation Ireland in 2008 as Chief Executive. In addition to his role as CEO, Peter is an Equality Commissioner in NI and he is also a Commissioner with Londonderry Port and Harbour. Peter is a former Assistant Chief Constable with the PSNI (formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary).  He retired from the police service in 2008 having spent 32 years policing in NI. Before retiring he was responsible for the Crime Operations Department, which included serious and organised crime investigation including terrorist investigations. Peter is a graduate of Cambridge University, he attended the FBI Academy in 1999 and was awarded the OBE in the Queens Birthday Honours list in 2008 for services to the community.

12.50: Performance by High Hopes Choir

1pm: Conference ends and Lunch

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