First Minister Paul Givan and Junior Minister Declan Kearney met with students from St Colm’s to pay tribute to their work and the publication of The Times That Shape Us anthology (Arts Council NI/PA)
First Minister Paul Givan and Junior Minister Declan Kearney met with students from St Colm’s to pay tribute to their work and the publication of The Times That Shape Us anthology (Arts Council NI/PA)

Pupils at a Belfast school have created a poetry and photography anthology reflecting on their time during lockdown.

First Minister Paul Givan and junior minister Declan Kearney joined pupils at St Colm’s High School to launch the collection entitled The Times That Shape Us.

The project came about as part of the Creative Schools Partnership, an initiative supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, National Lottery funding, the Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative and the Education Authority.

It has been inspirational to witness how they channelled their experiences of the pandemic and lockdown into poetry, photography and music

Adrian Walsh

The initiative brings professional artists into classrooms to teach students creative skills, linked to the school curriculum, to improve educational outcomes.

The pupils’ focus was improving mental health and wellbeing through poetry, photography and music, and they worked with a range of artists including poet Danielle Carragher on the year-long project.

The poems composed by the young people reflect their time in lockdown and how the period affected their mental health.

They also produced a collection of photographs of what mattered to them during the pandemic.

St Colm\u2019s students are pictured with teacher Ursula Mackle at the launch of their Anthology project (Arts Council NI/PA)

Adrian Walsh, principal of St Colm’s, said: “It has been wonderful to watch their self-confidence and self-esteem grow as they enjoyed new experiences through engagement with the arts and the opportunity to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures.

“It has been inspirational to witness how they channelled their experiences of the pandemic and lockdown into poetry, photography and music.

“These young people come from an area with many socioeconomic problems and challenges, and here at St Colm’s we have seen an acute rise in young people with anxiety and other mental health issues since lockdown and the subsequent return to school.”

Mr Givan said: “The poetry anthology and photographic exhibition that they have created are excellent.

“The students have expressed their journey through Covid so well; this is not only a wonderful expression of creativity, it is literally a snapshot, it has captured a moment, recording a short social documentary of life in a pandemic.”

Rois\u00edn McDonough Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, St Colm\u2019s Year 11 pupil Corey Collins and African drumming tutor, Thomas Annang (Arts Council NI/PA)

Mr Kearney said: “The incredible young people, and the others who contributed to this book and exhibition, are the influencers and change makers of the future.

“Their efforts will not only benefit their lives, but also those of their peers who have been through similar experiences during the pandemic.”

St Colm’s is one of 11 secondary schools in the Creative Schools Partnership.

Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The students at St Colm’s have created a unique record of this pandemic, and of the impact of lockdown on their lives.

“The artists and teachers involved have introduced them to new ways of creative thinking and expression; that has been our goal throughout this programme.”

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