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Local man uses art to build bridges in Middle East

Wednesday 7th December 2005 at 12pm 0 Comments

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Colum Sands, member of the internationally-known Sands Family from County Down received an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Travel Award to help with travel costs to Israel where he worked with an Israeli storyteller to combine music, songs and stories from Ireland with those from the Middle East in a show called "Talking to the Wall". Colum takes time out to tell us about his experiences.

“The tour of Israel was inspiring and successful. I took part in performances which included an Irish/Jewish/Arabic concert in Nazareth and a concert workshop with Arab Jewish villagers, students, academics and social workers in Haifa University.

The performance took place on the top floor of the University, with spectacular views over the city. The show ‘Talking to the Wall’ was written by an Israeli storyteller and myself. It brought together Jews and Arabs from many walks of life, providing different perspectives on Middle Eastern problems and on divided communities in general.

The performance was translated on an overhead screen in Hebrew and Arabic. Afterwards there was a chance for everyone to meet together and socialise over refreshments. I wouldn’t claim that gatherings like these will change the world but they will certainly bring together people from different traditions who would otherwise never have met. I believe that their talking and socialising together is a beginning.

The collaboration with Arabic musicians was both interesting and mind broadening. The variety and complexity of Arabic scales and rhythms reminded me why Western music often sounds or tastes to them like processed food. I learned five or six new scales and really enjoyed the Arabs description of Western music sounding ‘sweet’ and Arabic music sounding ‘salty’. In a performance in Nazareth we fused elements of Irish and Arabic music.

Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Roisín McDonough commented “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s vision is to inspire the imagination, and to build the future through the arts. This is exactly what Colum has done in the Middle East.”

Colum received the travel award as part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Support for the Individual Artists Programme. The programme caters for just about everything that an artist could require, from basic grants of a few hundred pounds made available to buy equipment and materials, to larger travel awards, international residencies and assistance with profiling work on an international platform.

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