Dumbworld presents multi-media exhibition, Whales, Bats & Anarchy, at The MAC, Ulster University and Artcetera Studios

11th March, 2024

Dumbworld, one of Northern Ireland’s most creative and versatile arts organisations has launched Whales, Bats & Anarchy, A Journey of Co-Creation, a multi-media exhibition in three strands presented across three venues in Belfast including Artcetera Studio, The MAC and Ulster University. The project is supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Three people standing in the exhibition space at Ulster University.
Pictured at Ulster University is John McIllduff of Dumbworld with Eibhlín de Barra, Director, Young at Art/Belfast Children's Festival and Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music & Opera, Arts Council NI. Watch the video below.

Whales, Bats & Anarchy, A Journey of Co-Creation, is now available to view and will run until the 15/16 March. It is suitable for all ages. Talking about the new project John McIlDuff, Co-Founder/Artistic Director, Dumbworld, said, 

“Since Covid, connecting with people, getting into a room with them and collectively making something together has been really important for us. It's also a joy. These different works have offered both ourselves and, we hope, everybody involved, new ways to explore what happens when we search for a collective way of making art and music.”

One strand of the project is, A Children’s Guide to Anarchy, a series of musical animations on display until 16 March at The Atrium in Ulster University’s BC Building. It is being showcased as part of the 2024 Belfast Children’s Festival presented by Young at Art.

Inspired by the 1931 publication ‘La Anarquia Explicada a Los Niños’, an instructional manual for children published during the Spanish Civil War that explained the ideas and practises of anarchy – composer Brian Irvine and director John McIlduff, in collaboration with the children of Oakwood Primary School in Glasgow and the Red Note Ensemble, have created a collection of 7 musical animations that explore key elements of “anarchical” thinking such as autonomy, kindness and human connectivity from a child’s perspective.

The work was developed over a year-long process of co-creation involving pupils, teachers, artists, and musicians. It was co-produced by Red Note Ensemble as part of the Belfast Children’s Festival.

Brian Irvine, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Dumbworld, added, 

“The superpower of children is their ability to remind us of the core values of humanity, care, humour, and joy… values which in their honesty and depth, and simplicity feel increasingly anarchic within the context of an ever turbulent and confused world. Their simple advice: “listen to your dog“ or “be nice” or “eat strawberries”, seems to poke at the heart of what we as a species are all about… these incredible children in this beautiful project illuminate the wondrous and reignite the deep sense of love and fun and care within us all. It has been one of the most inspiring and authentic and enduring collaborations I have ever had the pleasure to be involved in.”

Eibhlín de Barra, Director, Young at Art/Belfast Children's Festival, said, 

When Dumbworld first approached us about having the Children's Guide to Anarchy in the Belfast Children's Festival, I've got to admit, I was sold. I think children and young people are going to find this a really rich experience. The idea of anarchical thinking from a child's perspective is just such a great idea. We hope they'll come along with their families, enjoy all the provocations that we have here. There are seven manifesto points here, so I think it's a fantastic thing to do as a family, to come along and explore anarchy for children.”

Another strand of the project entitled, A New Songbook, A collection of new music and video works, will be on display until 15 March at Artcetera Studio in Rosemary Street Belfast. This exhibition delves into the nexus of music and politics, exploring how music shapes cultural identities and beliefs. Collaborating in workshops with five community groups, a series of new songs, music, and films were co-created to amplify and illuminate messages of hope, solidarity, and change.

Facilitated by Dumbworld’s Co-Artistic Directors, the workshops involved conceptual development, lyric writing, and musical composition using improvised, inclusive techniques. Collaborating Artists included Forthspring Inter-community Group (Ats Us Naigh and Moving Up Moving On), Hive Cancer Support Choir, Tools for Solidarity, Art of Music Foundation, Nairobi and Rice College, Ennis.

The final strand of the wider project is called, A New Topography of Love, A retro arcade game opera, which is on display until 16 March at The MAC. Written and directed by John McIlduff and composed by Brian Irvine, Dumbworld collaborates with artist Stephen Maurice Graham (The Washington Post, VICE, MTV) to create a bold new video-game opera experience.

Both humorous and thought-provoking, A New Topography of Love introduces audiences to unforgettable new characters and some familiar faces. An original accompanying operatic soundtrack reflects this satirical, dark humour as audiences are taken on a journey through destruction, re-birth, love, and most importantly – hope. In a debut collaboration with Whitepot Studios, the exhibition pays homage to the beloved, yet nearly forgotten, 1970s video game culture (think Space Race and Pacman).

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music and Opera, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, 

Dumbworld has an international reputation for producing high-quality, high-impact work and It's always so exciting to see what they do next. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is thrilled to support this project and also to see one of the strands being presented as part of this year’s Belfast Children’s Festival. Thanks to The National Lottery, we are proud to be principal funder of both Dumbworld and Young at Art, and National Lottery funding has been a game changer in enabling this exciting, inspiring and immersive exhibition to come to life. I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy - it is unmissable!”

For more information visit

Three people wearing headphones to enjoy the exhibition at Ulster University.
Pictured at Ulster University is John McIllduff of Dumbworld with Arts Council's Head of Music & Opera, Ciaran Scullion, and Eibhlín de Barra, Director, Young at Art/Belfast Children's Festival.