Changemakers: Student and Youth Activism in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, like elsewhere in the world, students and young people have been at the forefront of multiple movements for change. From campaigns for peace, justice, and equality, to protests against climate change and the introduction and increase of student tuition fees, students have taken to the streets to march and to hold rallies and sit-ins for various issues.

‘Changemakers: Student and Youth Activism in Northern Ireland’ is a special project developed by The Linen Hall that explores pivotal moments of student activism in Northern Ireland’s history and spotlights the role of today’s changemakers.

This project comprises an exhibition, a launch event, and a symposium.

In the development of the exhibition, we closely collaborated with local student and youth groups. Drawing from artefacts and ephemera in The Linen Hall’s archives, alongside materials created by these groups, we have co-curated an exhibition reflecting on these significant campaigns.

We extend our gratitude to artists Stéphanie Heckman, James Ashe, Lesley Cherry, and Nichola Irvine for their invaluable contributions to the artistic curation of this exhibition.

Special thanks to Belfast YMCA, Secondary Students’ Union of Northern Ireland (SSUNI), Diverse Youth NI, Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union, and students from the Textile Art, Design and Fashion Department (Ulster University) for their valuable insights and input.

Project Coordinator, Dr Melissa Baird, said: ‘Changemakers: Student Activism in Northern Ireland has been an exciting opportunity for The Linen Hall to engage with students and young people. Through our workshops we’ve gained so much insight into the challenges facing young people today, from poor mental health and poverty to sexism and racism, among many others. It is poignant that many of these problems are the same as those students and young people have faced in any decade in the past 60 years at least. With support from local artists, we’ve made protest posters, t-shirts, and tote bags in response to these issues. In integrating these reflective pieces with artefacts from student and youth movements that are held within our collections, we hope that this project will showcase the importance of young people’s voices and activism, in the past and present, in confronting wider problems across society.’

This project has been supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund.

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