Beyond Skin, Breaking Barriers

Beyond Skin Founder and CEO, Darren Ferguson, has been invited to represent Northern Ireland at this year’s World Music Expo in Budapest in late October; showcasing the achievements of music bridging communities in Northern Ireland.

Celebrating over 10 years of success and a reputation which any organisation could hope for, Beyond Skin continues to break down barriers and demonstrate the vivacity of the different cultures present in Northern Ireland.

Founded by Northern Ireland based Darren Ferguson, Beyond Skin, took inspiration from the ‘Unity through Diversity’ theme by 1 Giant leap, which Darren says drove the formation of The Motion Project. He saw first hand, the power of music and universal topics such as love, death and money, as a tool to connect and unite people of the world, he says the ethos and methods used play a large role throughout all of Beyond Skin’s projects.

Beyond Skin, which formed 11 years ago, is known for its cutting edge community development work which uses music, arts and media to form positive global relationships, with the overall aim of addressing issues of racism and sectarianism in Northern Ireland. All of their projects and workshops provide immersive experiences that inspire communities within Northern Ireland to challenge their own prejudices and tackle hard issues in a safe way; to promote positive relations and community cohesion.

Darren dedicates the success of Beyond Skin to the passion and love of all involved, ‘we just do things that we love, we have a very organic system, which allows us to take things in the direction which they naturally progress… when someone says we can’t do something, we prove them wrong’. Darren comments on how having a relaxed environment and space allows the team to develop what they do. He also praises the facilitators who work with the Beyond Skin family for their dynamic, high impact and sometimes crazy ways of engaging the groups they work with. ‘Due to funding and internal politics we often only get one chance to work with certain communities, we aim to provide them with an experience they will never forget. We want them to feel that the world is on their doorstep.’

Based on the realisation that many people do not have access to accurate information and mixed messages from community peers and those with negative agendas, one way in which Beyond Skin break down barriers is through united global education, ‘when we work with young people, we like to give them something to think about, a piece of information to bring home to the kitchen table, so that they can challenge the comments they may hear.’ Another method which they have found very positive in uniting communities is encouraging individuals to think about the language and terms they use.

‘We get people to come together and talk openly about the words they use, we talk about why they may be offensive or perhaps racist, in an open manner… People often realise that the words they are using to describe others don’t make sense.’

Beyond Skin embraces a multicultural society in Northern Ireland which allows individuals to question, understand and truly express their own identity while having respect and tolerance for others. ‘If you can be an individual and part of it all at the same time, you’ve got it made.’

Some of the most popular projects which Beyond Skin run in Northern Ireland are:

WOMAD Outreach Programme

The WOMAD Outreach Programme in Northern Ireland is managed by Beyond Skin and offers high quality workshops in world music, arts and dance leading to showcase events. The WOMAD (World Of Music Arts & Dance) is the world’s most prestigious International Arts Festival spanning over 25 coun – tries since 1980.

Interactive Music and Movement Experience (IME)

IME is a high impact diversity learning workshop through world music & dance delivered by a professional band of local & international artists.

Parallel Versing

A diversity & global education music project between children in two post conflict countries (Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka). New music is created using simple technology to produce audio/ visual recordings featuring young people from two countries on the same track. Young people exchange handmade gifts, letters and information.

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