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Speak Your Piece
Exploring Controversial Issues

A Guide for Teachers, Youth and Community Workers


World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips, and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

from Snow by Louis MacNiece

John Kelly suggests that the desire to express who we are can be a rich and creative impulse, or it can be exclusive and aggressive. The programme explores cultural choices facing young people.

The studio debate explores young people's perceptions of inclusive and exclusive aspects of British and Irish cultures, and shared aspects of popular cultures such as music, fashion and sport.

Tensions begin to emerge in the relationships featured in the drama.

Our Frankie's not a clown, our Frankie's a hero.

Before viewing...

A few days before the session ask the group to bring in artefacts or objects which symbolize an aspect of their culture which is important to them.

1. Each person should describe briefly their object.

2. Each should give a reason why it is important to them.

3. Compile a list of cultural artefacts which might appear in the programme.

How many cultures are there in Northern Ireland?
  • Northern Irish people may look the same, but they have other ways of nurturing cultural difference. (Kelly)
  • This is the best day of my life. (Billy about the Twelfth of July)
  • Our Frankie's not a clown. Our Frankie's a hero. (Pat about her brother in prison)
  • We are closer as a group than we are to our parents and grandparents who would identify themselves in the national terms the same way we do. (male)

Somebody will be getting one of these!

We could sort her out!

Activity one The opening drama sequences illustrate some aspects of culture.
1. What aspects of culture are represented in the opening scenes?
2. How do the dramas represent culture in Northern Ireland?
3. To what cultural tradition does each symbol belong? (Worksheet 2, page 12)
4. Why do some symbols not fit easily into one culture?
5. Northern Ireland is often portrayed as 'two cultures'. Is this accurate?

Do cultural traditions threaten or exclude each other?

  • Why is it that things people do for enjoyment, poetry, music or language or even sport, sometimes threaten? (Kelly)

  • Just think how proud you'll feel, with all them 'ins gawkin 'at you, walkin 'down there, knowin' that they can't stop our parade. (Ken)
  • He's stuck in there because of his beliefs. (Pat)
  • I don't see myself as Irish because the Irish culture I see as very exclusive. It's exclusively Catholic. It's a closed box. (male)
  • Who's alienating you? Are you alienating yourselves? (male)
  • I don't see why I shouldn't see myself as part of the gaelic culture. (female)
Activity two The programme questions how we perceive other cultures.
  1. Discuss what the characters in the drama scenes have in common.
  2. What symbols from your own culture might be threatening for others?
  3. What symbols from other cultures make you angry? Why?
  4. Is it part of the culture in Northern Ireland for young people to be aggressive towards others?

Worksheet 2 on page 12 contains activities which examine the issues of religious processions and traditional marches in the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

How can different cultural traditions exist within the same society?
  • A fish stew where the flavour of each fish is distinct or a Babel stew, a disastrous dish, where the flavours simply do not mix. (Kelly on Jerusalem)
  • Is the situation so bleak that people can't share any form of cultural expression, or can we embrace each other's differences and come up with something creative, something new, and something better? (Kelly)
  • It's not only his cause, you know. He's locked up now because he wants freedom for this country. (Pat)
  • Even if we don't agree we have to try to understand. That's the least we can do. (Anna)
  • I didn't go to the parades. I went to Donegal every 12th of July so I had that Irishness, but bringing that back into my area and my school I couldn't use that. I was seen as British and supposed to support Britain. (female)
Activity three Kelly suggests that people living in conflict have three choices.
  1. To continue to live in conflict.
  2. To agree to live apart (separate development or segregation).
  3. To live together (integration or reconciliation).

Examine the three alternatives in respect to the strengths and weaknesses of each. Discuss your findings.

Worksheet 2

Activity one - cultural symbols

Activity two - processions and marches

The television programme shows a procession of Jews who are going to worship at a well in an Arab village. Which group, Arab or Jew, would identify with the statements below?

1. This is our territory. They have no need to come here.
2. The army is here to protect them.
3. Is it too much to ask that we come, in peace, once a year?
4. Their presence here is a reminder that they think they control us.

The newspaper cutting is from Northern Ireland.
  1. Write six statements which reflect the views of both sides of the dispute.

  2. What suggestions might you make to help resolve the situation?

  3. What might be the reactions to these suggestions?

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