ArtsEkta is connecting communities with an Awards for All grant for Nine Nights festival work

People from communities in south Belfast worked together with the Indian community to prepare for the Nine Nights festival last Saturday, thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

ArtsEkta and five other groups in south Belfast received grants totalling £36,777 from the Awards for All programme, announced in September. It is part of a Big Lottery Fund grants windfall of £769,369 to 91 groups across Northern Ireland. A full grant table can be downloaded here

ArtsEkta works to develop intercultural relationships within and between communities. They used the £7,250 to work with three Belfast communities together with the Indian community to celebrate the Indian festival of Navaratri, or Nine Nights.

One of the communities, Annadale-Haywood Residents Association, involved about 50 children of all ages in arts and crafts that were used as part of the  Nine Nights festival on Saturday the 24th October.

The project also supported them to attend the festival to take part in the parades and performances.

One of the project workers, Jeanette McMillan, of the resident’s association, said five years ago there was tension between cultures and communities in the Annadale-Haywood area, but because of projects like this one over the past few years, things are changing.

“It’s because of these kinds of opportunities that things have changed so much,” said Jeanette. “We are working through the children to change the old views. Nearly everyone in our area wants to move on and we are working to make sure it goes in the right direction.”

The Annadale Haywood area is now home to a mixture of cultures, with Chinese, Somalians, Polish and German people, as well as people of all communities from Northern Ireland.

“Opening people from interface areas up to cultures like Indian, or Chinese or Somalian, makes them more open to other communities in Northern Ireland,” said Jeanette. “And that helps us move away from the troubled past.”

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