How do you even begin a review of 2020… Traditionally you would start with something like – In January 2020 at RRR we had just been given the keys to our brand new Tech Lab space in the Ulster Museum, we were buzzing (insert bee emoji here). We had started settling in and delivering programmes like Digital Makers Club in late February/early March when… well you know what happened, you were there.
That’s kind of where the wheels come off the traditional approach to a review of the year.
It’s safe to say that 2020 was a really tough year.
Spring 2020 – Lockdown
At RRR we had to move all our programming online, we’d never done this before and didn’t really know how it would work. The team responded to the challenge though and we held our first event just one week after lockdown, an event that was loosely titled a ‘drawing challenge’. RRR participants jumped at the chance to be involved. From that experimental starting point RRR went on to provide over 90 online creative sessions to over 500 young people. We’re never going to be able to put a blog together that covers everything we’ve been up to in that time, so instead we asked selected core participants and partners for feedback on the events that resonated with them.
At team level something we focussed on, was how good it would be when we finally got to return to museum spaces. With this in mind, lets start this blog with Natalie Cole, who took part in a series of workshops led by the amazing artist Jacky Sheridan. These workshops focussed on designing a brand new wall piece for Tech Lab
“During April and May we had a really insightful workshop with the fantastic Jacky Sheridan who walked us through her process of creating illustrations for clients with fun exercises. We were also given the opportunity to see how this approach then fed into designing the incredible vinyl decal for the Tech Lab in Ulster Museum, as well as being able to give our own feedback and opinions about what we believed should be represented in the artwork, which she captured impeccably.
I think the combination of local creative talent sharing their time and skills with interested young people over the inspiring collections housed in our museums, is an ingenious way to foster both new talent as well as ensuring future engagement with heritage spaces.” – Natalie Cole, RRR Participant
Katie Ireland looks back at ‘Stay in Style’ one of our earliest online events in lockdown.
“Back when lockdown had us all feeling like everything had changed forevermore; and we’d spent a little too long at home wearing nothing but old comfy clothes, ‘Stay in Style’ was the perfect little pick me up – like slipping into your old favourite dress. The Stay in Style webinar delivered by curator Charlotte McReynolds, was perfectly timed for when the rest of the world stood still, for a reflection on fashion history and sustainability. Learning to love what we wear by viewing our clothes from the perspective of curatorial investigation, from looking at how they’re made to what makes them special to us.
This of course was just one of many wonderful virtual events run by Reimagine Remake Replay during lockdown that have made 2020 much more bearable. Despite all the challenges of 2020 it has been an absolutely brilliant year for RRR. It’s been brilliant how we pivoted so quickly to virtual events and platforms and provided such an amazing experience for everyone involved.” – Katie Ireland, RRR Participant
Speaking of Curator Charlotte McReynolds…
“Being involved in RRR during this mad year has helped to keep to me anchored to what’s important to me as a curator. Sharing the collections, connecting and creativity. At the start of the year this came about through the innovative online “Stay in Style” fashion event, and carried through to regular collections inspired drawing sessions with RRR, which were a hoot. I’m grateful to have been a part of RRR and hope to do more with everyone again in future, on site and online.” – Charlotte McReynolds Curator of Art, Fashion and Textiles, National Museums NI.
Working online meant trying to find ways that people could connect and have the craic. We utilised social media in the earlier part of 2020 as a way of getting our participants AND our partners involved. In March, April and May we set our participants, partners and staff a bizarre series of creative tasks to complete on social media, and fair play to them, they responded to the challenge. Cailín Lynn, Programming Development Manager at National Museums NI explains;
“RRR has brought a lot of cheer this year, not just to it’s wonderful participants but to all National Museums NI employees! We all got our thinking caps on in April for Museum Worthy, a social media thread that had us decide which item we would put in National Museums NI collections. It was a joy to see people’s prized (and bizarre!) items form their lives, but more than that it was lovely to see people’s faces in pictures, it had felt like such a long time since we had all shared an office, a coffee and a chat. RRR has spread so much love, joy and connectivity during the last nine months and it’s been my pleasure to work with such a wonderful team.” – Cailín Lynn, Programming Development Manager, NMNI.
Cailín Lynn along with participants and and staff selecting the items from their homes they consider to be ‘Museum Worthy’
In May we teamed up with our besties at Making the Future, to collaborate on an exciting live event. ‘RRR in Conversation with…’ was a series of live events in which artists were interviewed by RRR participants, Hannah Sharp, Lucinda Toomey and RRR Youth Ambassador, Niamh Kelly, to a live online audience. No review of the year would be complete without acknowledging the energy and creativity the Niamho has brought to the team since joining in February. Here Niamh details the ‘RRR in Conversation with…’ series and the impact it had on programming;
“Like everyone and everything, RRR had to adapt at the start of lockdown. We were used to delivering in-person programmes and workshops in museums – with physical collections, cutting edge tech, heavy machines and, of course, with the company and presence of each other. So moving to online delivery and little Zoom squares was challenging for us, as it was for all, but we knew we wanted to continue with the project rather than pause it. Our reasoning behind this was to support participants – with our bread and butter of creativity, craic and community – in a time they’d need it most.
So we wanted to maintain the multiple benefits that participants gained from the project and also to maintain one of our core values that drives and directs us – being youth-led. One way for us to do this was by piloting a series of live online talks, wherein participants interviewed artists on a level field and put to them whatever questions they wanted. So myself, Hannah Sharp and Lucinda Toomey interviewed artists Donovan Wylie, James Ashe and Ursula Burke respectively. We talked about lots of things but mainly museums, making art and being creative in lockdown. From running this short series we learned a lot about these online events – how they can bring us together and enable audiences to hear participants’ voices on issues and topics they care about. I think doing this led on to other brilliant events like our first ever Mental Health Arts Festival and it is something we’ll continue with in 2021. So participants, if you’re reading this and you have an interview you want to do – let us know!” – Niamh Kelly, RRR Youth Ambassador/Project Assistant
Also in May, Niamh ran the first RRR Creative Writing workshop. A four-week creative writing series where participants learned about different writing styles. Participants went on to create their own short pieces of writing which have been collated into a publication, designed by Hannah Sharp, which will be available both online and in the Ulster Museum next year. The feedback from participants on this workshop was fantastic with the only criticisms being that they wished it had been longer. In November/December Niamh facilitated a brand new, six-week version of the Creative Writing programme. Paul McFerran tells us about his time on Creative Writing;
“Those hosting Reimagine Remake Replay are some of the most welcoming and passionate folk I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They delivered an online masterclass on topics from poetry to blogging that each brought new life to the world of the museum. With guest lecturers such as Mícheál McCann and Anna Liesching, the course offered wonderful insight into their fields of expertise and ensured the project always provided a new and exciting challenge.” – Paul McFerran, RRR Participant
In June we held an amazing workshop, ‘Cut and Paste’, which focussed on the history of political collage. The workshop was facilitated by Curator of Art at National Museums NI, Anna Liesching. Participants were sent packs in the post that contained copies of the collection’s images, so they could create their own political collages. Isabella Koban tells us a bit about the workshop.
“Participating in the cut and paste workshop was one of the highlights of the dark time we refer to as the first lockdown. Getting an insight into the political history of this art form gave me a way to engage outside of the small space of my living room and opened up online resources for me to explore and use in my own art. I love taking notes and I still rifle through the pages of artists names and historical info that was shared during the workshop for inspiration.”
RRR feels like an amazing collection of super interesting skills I’ve always wanted to learn, taught by my mates. The whole team makes you feel really comfortable and excited to delve into new projects.”– Isabella Koban, RRR Participant
You can see all the collages created in Cut and Paste here
Summer – Substantial meals/substantial programming
We’d started to hit our stride with online working at the mid point of the year. Much of the focus in RRR is how we can give autonomy to participants, find them opportunities to really use their voice. Such a chance arose at the end of June when the Ulster Museum gave two participants, Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh and Hannah Sharp, control of their official social media accounts for the day. What followed was a lot of creativity, engagement and even more laughs. Hannah Sharp tells us about her experience during the takeover;
“The social media take over really made me feel that I had a voice and the ability to change how the museum interacted with young people. It was so amazing to see the positive affect we could have to shape how our heritage is presented online! It was also just loads of fun too, running quizzes, sharing memes and generally just hanging out digitally with people who have a shared interest.
In 2020, a year of distance and isolation, RRR has meant so much to me. I feel like I’ve discovered a new and inclusive creative community, which would be so valuable any other year but takes on a special new significance this year. I have also had opportunities to learn more about my heritage that I haven’t had before and learned so many new skills alongside amazing people.” – Hannah Sharp, RRR Participant.
Just a snippet of some of the scenes from Hannah & Soso’s takeover of the Ulster Museum social media accounts.
This new way of online delivery was providing unique opportunities, we could connect with artists from further afield. In July we ran a zine making workshop in collaboration with our friends at ‘Making the Future’. The workshop was run by the amazing Manchester based artists collective, Shy Bairns. The result was a stunning 48 page zine. A beautiful, limited edition, riso printed zine will be exhibited at some stage in the Tech Lab next year. You can view the online version of the zine here
Irene de la Mora tells us a bit about her experience on the zine making course with Shy Bairns and her experiences of RRR in 2020;
“I have been attending RRR workshops since 2019, and it has always surprised me that they are completely free, since there is so much you can take from them. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2019 courses (we even got pizza ordered for lunch in some of them!) but I think that due to the circumstances, they have been crucial to keep my sanity during 2020. Being stuck at home and struggling with mental health issues, my motivation reached its lowest point this year. However, joining the multiple workshops that have been offered during lockdown helped me find a sense of purpose, as they gave me a project I could focus on. They have also allowed me to reconnect with my artistic skills, which unfortunately I often push to the side.
I have always loved the zines – unlike other formats, since they are so cheap to produce, everyone can have access to them. So I couldn’t miss Shy Bairns’ zine workshop. I love the way the workshops have been adapted to the current circumstances – all the materials needed were sent to us via post, allowing everyone to participate without needing to leave the house. The zine we collectively created focused around cultural identity, a topic that as someone that was born in one country, raised in another one and lives in yet a third one I’m deeply interested in. The workshop opened the door to the exploration of my own cultural identity, and I was fascinated by other people’s take on it since Northern Ireland’s cultural identity is very particular, complex and nuanced.” – Irene de la Mora, RRR Participant.
In lockdown being able to connect with and work with artists has been vital for our events and workshops. We can’t thank the artists we’ve worked with enough. We asked George Gibson from Shy Bairns how they found the experience of working with RRR;
“The zine making course we ran in the summer was one of the first zoom-based sessions we were asked to run; something that has now became the norm. However, even within this ~ new normal ~ our experience working with RRR is still, for us, a stand out example of how digital workshops can and should work. From the beginning the sessions were incredibly heartwarming to run — something that has been really missing from our lives this year is the feeling of getting to know new people, hearing about their passions and starting new projects together. Having four sessions (one a week with Slack communication in between) allowed us to get to know the participants, leaving time for us to give them feedback and develop ideas and methods. Thanks to the extra funding from RRR and Making The Future we have been able to print physical copies of the collaborative zine — giving the participants something tangible to hold, a reminder that art can still exist offline.” – George Gibson, Shy Bairns.
You can find out more about Shy Bairns and their practice at https://www.shybairns.co.uk
Through the summer we ran an incredibly important workshop series. We had the opportunity to collaborate with She Sells Sanctuary, a non profit collective of artists that raise money for domestic violence charities in NI. Clodagh Lavelle, Niamh Kelly and artist Elly Makem, along with a series of guest speakers from NIMC, delivered an incredible workshop series. Participants learned about heritage and women in NI. The end result is something we are incredibly proud of. Participants collaborated and created sixteen individual prints, inspired by the women they had researched. Limited edition sets of these prints were donated to She Sells Sanctuary and are now on sale. You can get all 16 prints for just £15. https://shesellssanctuary.bigcartel.com/product/reimagine-remake-replay-set-of-16-a5-prints
Every penny raised will go to Women’s Aid. They are selling fast so be quick.
RRR Participant Molly Martin has written the most incredible blog on her experience on the She Sells Sanctuary workshop. You can read that here
We asked Molly for some feedback of her time on She Sells Sanctuary and her experience of RRR in 2020;
“In the year that is 2020, where the struggle has most certainly been real, I found great solace in becoming involved with Reimagine, Remake, Replay.
My first introduction to RRR was for the illustration programme with Elly Makem; I soon became hooked and have since joined the Climate Action Network and the Myths Made Modern programme. Each group is unique in its teamwork, fun, and ways of creation, and all of them full of support and a lot of craic. I particularly enjoyed taking part in She Sells Sanctuary and making a difference for Women’s Aid and the women of Northern Ireland in completion of the illustration programme. I was hugely proud to say that I was collectively making art which was aiding other women who had been subject to the 30% increase in reported cases of domestic violence over lockdown. That felt powerful From that, I had a real sense of pride in all of the team.
The one thing that stands out for me the most, and what meant the most to me since becoming involved, is the sense of community. This element of joining a new team is immeasurable, and the leaders were able to create this incredibly, especially during a time in which we are facing something we have never faced before and are in need of support, light-heartedness and human interaction the most.” Molly Martin, RRR Participant
Autumn 2020 – Lockdown part 2, revenge of the restrictions
In autumn we put together an event that was a first for RRR, Head & Heart was a three-day online festival which focussed on arts, mental health and wellbeing. Some of our participants were feeding back that in lockdown, with restrictions and in the confusing in between periods, they were finding things difficult. Core participant Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh had really shone a spotlight on how engagement in RRR had been a real positive in terms of mental health, in her must read blog; https://reimagineremakereplay.org/blog/bed-soup-art-mental-health-the-pandemic/
After writing this piece Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh was invited to collaborate with Youth Engagement Officer Stephen Millar to plan, programme and deliver the three day festival. The result was an amazing line up over three days of Advocates, Artists and Art Psychotherapists to deliver a fantastic series of workshops and talks. These included:
Art Psychotherapist Gail Calwell, Artist and Advocate Deirdre McKenna from University of Atypical, the eminent Belfast poet and photographer Vanessa Ifediora, Forager and Cook Clare McQuillan, Head Gardener of the Tropical Ravine Adrienne Armstrong, Silversmith Claire Mooney, Visual Artist Brian Kielt, RRR Youth Ambassador Niamh Kelly, Illustrator Hannah Sharp and Writer and Artist Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh.
Here is Sorcha, with a look back on Head & Heart;
“In feedback sessions, I had spoken to Stephen about how RRR helped me to regulate my mental health throughout the lockdown when community mental health services were forced to shut and adapt. So we hatched a plan, a festival for World Mental Health Day focused on refocusing our art brains on the holistic process of art making. Moving away from the focus on “end product”, and the pressure of perfection that is regularly felt by artists, Head + Heart festival aimed to provide a toolkit of support strategies rooted in heritage and arts to alleviate the overwhelming sense of isolation felt in lockdown. Stephen, an absolutely unreal art therapist in his own right, and I organised a weekend of workshops and talks with help from Deirdre McKenna and Jane Morrow both artists working in community organisation across the University of Atypical and the Angelica Project. If you had told me last year that in 2020 I’d be programming an arts festival based on the two greatest passions in my life, heritage and recovery, I’d have answered ye with a big “AYE RIGHT LOVE”. But here we are, I’m a 24 year old at the start of their career and with the help of RRR I actually achieved something in 2020. Throughout the festival, I never felt alone. As a neurodivergent artist figuring out their limits, with RRR I was always allowed to take as much time and space as I needed. Not many places recognise these needs, and curating a festival is big for anyone with a disability, but I was supported the entire way and even to this day. As part of Head + Heart, I met a whole crew of new faces that I’m hoping will be my new friends of 2021 (“hey guys pls u r so cool”). I got to be a part of something great. On the back of the festival we now have an arts and wellbeing steering group — filled with friendly faces from the festival — and I can only hope to continue curating arts and heritage programming focused on recovery in 2021. Thank you to everyone who made Head + Heart the wondrous and beautiful event that it was.” – Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh, RRR Participant
Artist Brian Kielt discussing his practice.
You can watch all the recordings from Head & Heart at this link https://reimagineremakereplay.org/showcase/head-heart-mental-health-festival/
We thought it would be important to get participant perspective on Head & Heart, Méabh Magee provides her thoughts on the festival;
“RRR has coped with the pandemic so brilliantly! As a participant of their Head and Heart Programme, they were able to unite people right from the comfort of our own homes. This was so incredible for someone like myself who was isolated in their University accommodation during this time, with no access to friends or family. My mental health improved even without myself realising, as being able to have a good old bit of banter was warmly welcomed. Also getting to complete activities through the pack that was sent out to us was great! I’m still using my watercolours!” – Méabh Magee, RRR Participant
So the year is drawing to an end and yes, maybe we’re happier to see this one go more than most, but we’ve still had a lot of amazing experiences to look back on. As mentioned at the beginning, this blog offers only an overview and has not been able to highlight loads of other amazing things we did… haven’t even got round to mentioning that RRR won the Museum Association Best Museums Change Lives Project for 2020. Luckily you can read all about it here https://reimagineremakereplay.org/blog/rrr-named-best-museums-change-lives-project-2020/
Winter 2020 – Christmas
baubles bubbles lockdown
RRR Project Manager Joe Carlin wanted to highlight the efforts of the RRR team during 2020;
“I’m so proud of how the team responded to the challenges we faced through such a momentous year. In the light of Lockdown, the team worked tirelessly to create a wide range of new and innovative activities that would have been unimaginable this time last year. This has provided a creative outlet and social community that has supported our participants and their wellbeing through some very difficult times. The commitment of the project team, museum staff, the Heritage Fund, and, most of all, our amazing community of young participants, has been remarkable and I’m excited to see how the project continues to evolve going into 2021!” Joe Carlin, RRR Project Manager
And as this year and this blog draws to a close it is only fitting that we look back on some craic. As a thank you to our participants for making a really difficult year much more craic, we held an RRR Christmas Party. This saw a return of the ‘Drawing Challenge’ (very little drawing actually takes place). Here are Méabh Magee and Molly Martin with their thoughts;
“The Christmas Party was so much fun! It was great to celebrate everything and everyone who has been a part of the RRR team, it felt like a family get together! My highlight was trying to recreate museum images. It’s so enjoyable being able to access the museum remotely, as I really miss visiting in person! Besides, what better way to end the year than an iconic drawing challenge!” – Méabh Magee, RRR Participant
“I can confidently say that joining the Zoom Christmas party was undoubtedly a highlight of the year. Between baby Jesus as a kiwi and very ‘avant garde’ drawings, it resulted in sore cheeks from all the laughter and Christmas spirit was well and truly in the (virtual) air.
Whatever 2021 brings, I know I won’t be lost and that is thanks to Reimagine, Remake, Replay.” – Molly Martin, RRR Participant.
You’ve made it to the end of this blog and 2020, congratulations!
We wish all our participants a really restful break, you’ll need it, we have big plans for 2021.
Nollaig Shona Duit- Merry Christmas (Insert Christmas tree emoji here)
Aidan, Clodagh, Emma, Joe, Niamh, Peter, Stephen