The Bessbrook model village living history archive has now been completed. This fantastic project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Our Heritage small grants programme, and the culmination of the programme that captured the hearts and minds of the village, was a well-attended celebration event held in Bessbrook Town Hall in October.
The project had a range of main outcomes; the first was the creation of a piece of art entitled “Now and Then”. This sensory wall hanging is the result of extensive engagement and input from the local community and includes poetry extracts and felted panels, created by the participants. The piece is available to view in Bessbrook Library and images of it can be seen on the new website that has been built to accompany the project. The website, www.bessbrook.org, includes an on-line archive of images of the items brought to a show-and-tell evening in July. This evening encouraged people to bring along items of historical interest to be examined and photographed; creating a valuable on-line resource that crosses the generational and global divide.
“Bessbrook has a rich tapestry of history that is at risk of being lost in the digital age. This project has offered us a fantastic opportunity to record and preserve this element of our heritage,” said Roisin Mulgrew, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The website will also host a series of docu-dramas that came out of media training workshops, provided by local company Slack Press. The dramas explore and interpret the history of Bessbrook in a modern way. Workshop participants were young people aged 16-25 not in education, employment or training. The young people learnt skills in video production, writing and developing storyboards and scripts, filming and film editing.
However, the project was not all virtual and a key part was the provision of a series of fascinating guided walks by Rosemary Mullholland. Walkers experienced the dawn chorus in Derrymore and discovered the industrial heritage of the Camlough River and its impact on the development of the area. They were also given the opportunity to explore the Millworkers House in College Square East, Bessbrook; which has been restored by the Bessbrook Development Company in the style of the late 1900s.
The great success of the Bessbrook Model Village Living History Archive is summed up by Shelia McClelland, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, who said,
“We’re delighted that money raised by National Lottery players could fund this engaging local heritage project. As an early Quaker village, Bessbrook has a fascinating heritage and still retains so much of the original buildings and lay out. This project has brought that heritage to life in an imaginative and creative way and has involved lots of local people in exploring and sharing their heritage. We congratulate the project team on all their hard work.”