I was one of the formative members of An Crann / The Tree a vision for peace and healing in Ireland both North and South. Damien Gorman a poet and activist first proposed the idea of a peace and reconciliation group back in the very early 90’s. Many like minded individuals a mix of poets, artists and community representatives gathered first in the Old Museum Arts Centre and then further afield including Derry/Londonderry. The organization was based in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry although it did work on both sides of the border. We used workshops, talks and brought victims and ex combatants together. Peace initiatives were developed and some people began to find themselves able to share their story.
It wasn’t an easy process and many of the techniques used were at that time experimental however they lay the groundwork for many accepted models. The British Government built a model called Towards understanding and Healing and used An Cranns work as their primary model.
“The development of Towards Understanding and Healing was informed and influenced by both research on the need for storytelling and dialogue as well as the experience and practice of other projects in both Northern Ireland and abroad. The three major influences are as follows:
An Crann/The Tree
The primary model of practice was based on the work of “An Crann/The Tree,” a Northern Ireland-based organisation set up to help people tell and hear stories of the conflict. Started by Damian Gorman, an internationally renowned writer and artist, and Maureen Hetherington, of Derry City Council, this work included storytelling at the individual/group level and used the arts to help people articulate sometimes-painful memories. The ethos of An Crann/The Tree was one of inclusivity and validation of all individual experiences. By gathering and sharing the disparate narrative, the organisation aspired to connect people to the human and emotional detail of the hurt that has been done to all during the course of the Troubles. In 1998, An Crann/The Tree’s three-year plan came to a close. Towards Understanding and Healing was seen as the logical “second-phase”” of this important project, using storytelling and dialogue to help in the healing process.”
Healingthroughremembering.org has a pdf discussing the process and the outcomes of such work.
An Crann was forced to close down in 2004 due to funding issues however its legacy still lives on and the processes developed in workshops are used around the world including Israel/Palestine and Bosnia.