Music Theatre Cross-cultural Education Project. Belfast. Inspired by Deirdre Gribbin’s Percussion Concerto broadcast by the BBC. Funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast Community Relations Council. Belfast International Festival. Speigeltent. (2007) Having emerged from its recent turbulent political history, Belfast is fast becoming one of the most thriving and striking cities in the UK. This is reflected strongly in the faces of its many different communities. Increasingly Belfast is a multicultural place, which offers strong and enduring opportunities for growth and development. It is a 21st Century city, which is undergoing striking and positive change, at last. Multiculturalism is a new thing for Belfast. The integration and inclusion of individuals from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds provokes a challenging transitional phase in the city’s development. It is important that these ethnic minority groups have an equal chance to be at the grass roots in contributing to the foundation of the city’s developing economy and culture. Many of these communities had not previously had the opportunity to meet and discuss ideas and points of view with one another, and to work together collectively. Participants were drawn from groups in Belfast city, which have been identified as being from socially and economically disadvantaged communities. Goliath a Go Go!, was a music theatre based project which brought together members from five separate communities: Protestant, Catholic, Afro, Indian and Mandarin speaking, to discuss ideas about identity, to share thoughts and perceptions and to use these ideas and discussion points to express through musical narrative how they feel about being part of the identity of this changing city. It took its name from ‘Goliath’ the huge shipyard crane that marks clearly the landscape of the Belfast docks area where Titanic was built at the start of the last century. Over a period of a month participants worked alongside The Venus Blazing music Trust team creating a 30-minute music theatre work, which was performed as part of The Belfast Festival in 2007.
    Music is a force which enables individuals to express themselves freely. This creative music project provided the strongest forum for discussion. The resulting 30-minute music theatre piece harnessed, nurtured, and developed individuals’ creativity. The process also encouraged social interaction, integration and teamwork in a safe and fun environment alongside a skilled team of professionals. Many of the points raised in discussion formed the backbone narrative in written text for the musical work where words were used in song and also to reflect emotions through music and rhythm and lighting colour. Different communities discussed what sectarianism meant and the effect the political situation had on their lives. The working process was designed to allow for free, open and uninhibited debate and formed a valuable part of the project content. The project took place in Belfast’s Hindi Temple and started by looking to Belfast’s shipbuilding heritage, making percussion instruments from shipyard scrap metal alongside two former shipyard welders.
    A simple evaluation plan was set in place, involving feedback from participants. A key objective was to provide a forum through music theatre to express points of view on identity and on the definition of a multicultural society and how this can contribute to Belfast city as it develops and changes. We asked the question: “Does this opportunity provide a vehicle for further cross community programming. If so, how has this project aided this process?” One important feature of the project was that participants had the opportunity to bring their own musical identities to the devised sessions. We shared Indian percussion, African drumming (with rappers) and sang in Mandarin Chinese. Individuals were able to develop their writing and composing skills and to learn the principles behind collaboration. The group was led through a series of music theatre warm-ups followed by writing exercises to stimulate discussion and debate about each of their identities in relation to Belfast. These were collected and used as a narrative basis for song writing and for mood music development. A simple phrase emerged ‘This is my city’ which was used as a theme throughout and was repeated in all the various languages. Each translation of the phrase into another language spoken by members of the group produced a different rhythmic pattern. Working as a team writing and devising parts of a bigger piece of music, individuals gained confidence in their creative abilities and interpersonal skills and gained a mutual respect for one another. The legacy and exchange has led to continued creative sharing. A number of participants continue to perform together regularly, developing and discussing issues that affect them personally. Goliath a Go Go! inspired confidence. It gave participants the tools to negotiate collaboration and to find paths through difference in a positive way.