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The Arts and Literature in Northern Ireland

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Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh and Fionnuala McKenna
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

The Arts and Literature

This section is included to briefly highlight the response of the arts and literature to the period of the conflict in the region, and to provide links to relevant materials on CAIN.

  • Architecture
    The conflict had a direct impact on the architecture associated with police stations, security bases, and border posts, which were heavily fortified against paramilitary attack and became a prominent feature of both the urban and rural landscapes. Some aspects of town planning were also affected by the conflict with the 'peace lines' between residental areas and security gates around town centres being the most obvious examples. The design of business premises also had to respond to the conflict.
  • Music
    One cultural reflection of the conflict occurred in music. The most immediate impact was the increase in the number of Republican and Loyalists songs written about various events or aspects of the conflict. Of course songs from earlier periods of conflict continued to be sung or played alongside the newly written material. More mainstream rock and pop musicans and bands also wrote material based on 'the Troubles'.
  • Novels
    Numerous novels have used 'the Troubles' as a backdrop to, or the main element of, the storyline. Some of the novels were then turned into films for television or the cinema. See also extracts from Writing the North - The Contemporary Novel in Northern Ireland, by Laura Pelaschiar. Also see 'The Hurt World Short Stories of the Troubles' edited by Michael Parker (1995).
  • Painting, Drawing, Graphic Arts
    The confict has provided subject material for many artists based in Northern Ireland (see for example: Kelly, and Forker). In addition to traditional art, the use of street murals in many working-class Catholic and Protestant areas increased greatly over the period 1980 to 2000. Political cartoons which deal with the conflict have also been a feature of life in the region. Political posters have also played an important part in the history of the conflict. (See also: the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Troubles Archive which holds information about the way in which the Arts reflected the Troubles in Northern Ireland.)
  • Photography
    As an art form still photography has used the conflict as a source of subject material. In addition photography has played an important part in recording the conflict with Pacemaker International Ltd being perhaps the best know photographic press agency to emerge during the course of the conflict. Motion picture photography has also responded to the conflict and a number of commercial films have used 'the Troubles' as their subject matter. In addition to the important part played by television in reporting the conflict, television has also been the subject of political control at a number of stages during the past 30 years. [See also photographs]
  • Plays
    As in the case of novels, a number of authors have based their plays on the conflict. See 'Television drama and the Troubles', from Screening Ireland: Film and Television Representation, by Lance Pettitt (2000).
    [CAIN had hoped to produce a list of plays (similar to the list of commercial films) about 'the Troubles' but this did not prove possible. However, there is a searchable database of Irish plays, including ones that deal with the conflict, at the PLAYOGRAPHYIreland Web site {external_site}.]
  • Poetry
    Many poets have dealt with aspects of the conflict in their work. While this section is being completed see: 'A Rage for Order: Poetry of the Northern Ireland Troubles' edited by Frank Ormsby (1992), Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
  • Recreation
    A lot of aspects of recreation, from the games played by children to the public houses people choose to frequent, were impacted by the conflict.
  • Sport
    Many sports in Northern Ireland are also divided along sectarian lines and draw their particpants and supporters from exclusively, or mainly, one side of the community. See Sport and Leisure.
  • Textile Art
    Textile artists and quilt makers have produced works as a response to 'the Troubles'; see Conflict Textiles (formerly, The Art of Survival International and Irish Quilts).

    CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
    CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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