About the Project
An innovative and transformative initiative unfolded through “Let The Dance Begin,” a five-year arts health intervention spanning from 2013 to 2018 in Strabane, a cross-border town nestled in Northern Ireland. Situated on the banks of the river Foyle in County Tyrone, Strabane shares its border with Lifford, a small own in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, connected by the symbolic Lifford Bridge.
During The Troubles, Lifford Bridge held cross-border significance as the site of a British Army barracks. Today, it serves as a point of protest for the Border Communities Against Brexit organization. Notably, there is now an unimpeded connection between these towns, allowing seamless movement from one to the other.
The collaboration of national charities Arts Care and The Pushkin Trust led to the infusion of creative well-being practitioners from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland into the town. Over six weeks annually, musicians, dancers, artists, storytellers, and drummers dedicatedly worked with the local population, fostering aspirations, self-confidence, and self-worth. The initiative aimed to unlock creative potential among school children, special needs citizens, the elderly, and the wider community.
This cross-denominational, cross-generational, cross-border project, funded by the council, the Public Health Agency, and Children in Need, has resulted in remarkable outcomes. It has given rise to large-scale performances, public carnival parades, digital animations, pop-up art practices, eco-walks, drumming, poetry, and dance workshops.
Composer and musician, Elaine Agnew collaborated with Visual Artist, Gwen Stevenson to work with Knockavoe School to create an opportunity for young people to access video and audio equipment and film/music making processes. The aim was to explore how it fostered integration, promoted community-wide well-being, and served as an apprenticeship into the arts for those involved.
This unique collaboration between an arts health charity and a charity addressing the legacy of The Troubles in children has established a model of community collaboration recognized as best practice. “Let The Dance Begin” stands as an embodiment of well-being in the process of peace and reconciliation.