This paper assesses whether or not a cultural event can play a peacebuilding role during the post violence phase of conflict. Cultural expression has long been a contentious issue in Northern Ireland, no more so than in Derry/Londonderry, the city at the centre of this study. Adopting a qualitative approach, the authors used the city’s Fleadh Cheoil (2013) event as a case study and found that it served three of the seven-peacebuilding functions outlined by Paffenholz and Spurk (2010): social cohesion, in-group socialisation and intermediation/facilitation. The findings suggest that the event enabled positive change by building ‘bridges’ and developing intercommunal trust and cross culture understanding. This did not happen by chance and nor was it unproblematic. However, inclusivity was a core objective and the event was planned and managed accordingly. This required strong leadership, risk taking, sensitivity and a willingness to negotiate and compromise. In turn, this created the conditions for cross community dialogue that had ramifications beyond the cultural realm. Whilst this paper has demonstrated how a cultural event can play a role in peacebuilding, it does not suggest that culture events are a panacea for sectarianism, bias or conflict in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. However, if planned properly they can contribute to the peacebuilding process by providing an opportunity for people to navigate difficulties and develop shared experiences in complex and challenging conditions. These can help build trust, tolerance, understanding and confidence that enable divided societies to co-exist more peacefully.
- in-group socialization
- Northern Ireland