Prisoners from Magilligan Prison, County Londonderry, developed Empty Spaces, an exhibition for schools based in 1940s Nissen huts in the prison. Having participated in an HMDT workshop, the Deputy Governor was inspired to engage prisoners in creating the exhibition. This involved research, clearing out the huts, creating stunning art work depicting scenes from the camps and choosing suitable digital resources to tell the life stories of victims. For many visitors the most poignant moment was spending time in a hut in which prisoners have painted over 600 names of victims. These empty spaces have been filled with voices, stories and pictures of victims and survivors.
A facilitated discussion with pupils raised issues relevant to the Don’t stand by theme, ensuring the learning was put into action. It was an amazing learning experience for the 11 school groups who visited throughout January.
The standard of the exhibition was very high and the impact was significant on the prison community and beyond. Contributing to HMD in this way, helping the development of young people in the community, was the prisoners’ way of not standing by.
The huts were full of opportunities for learning. High quality art work and multimedia resources were used in a respectful and sensitive way to encourage visitors to take action back in their schools and communities. Running throughout January 2016 and beyond, the project saw 11 schools visiting the prison-based exhibition. Prisoners engaged fully with the project and worked hard to produce an exhibition of high quality and having a great impact on visitors encouraging all to refuse to stand by to hatred of any kind.
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford visited the display and speaking afterwards said: ‘I am very impressed by the work of the prisoners involved in this special project and the fact that schools will learn about the importance of honouring the survivors of past atrocities.’
Gary Milling, Deputy Governor at Magilligan said: ‘January 27 is the day for everyone to remember the millions murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. It is important we honour the survivors of these atrocities and learn the lessons of their experiences to challenge hatred and discrimination today.
‘The buildings at Magilligan which we are using for the display are similar to the type which would have been in use during World War Two, and these empty spaces will be filled with the voices, stories and pictures of victims, survivors.
‘Part of the project has also been prisoner involvement in the creation of the materials and spaces. It is their way of not standing by - contributing to the promotion of Holocaust Memorial Day and the development of young people in our community.’
Shirley Lennon, Northern Ireland Regional Support Worker for HMDT said, ‘This is an exciting, unique project and we are delighted to support Magilligan Prison in organising it. I have personally been impressed with how prisoners have engaged in the display, demonstrating a wide range of skills. It is also a very effective way of encouraging schools and local communities to raise awareness and Don’t stand by which is the theme of this year’s campaign.’
- If this example has inspired you to organise an event for HMD 2017, read our theme vision here.