BAFTA-nominated BBC documentary Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland screened to schools in Belfast

Series shown as part of a new education pilot, as students seek to understand the legacy of the Troubles



Photo L-R: Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland contributors James Greer and Bronagh McConville, with Director James Bluemel

16 April 2024 – The BBC and the Northern Ireland Education Authority today hosted a special screening of the multi-award-winning documentary, Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. Screened at the Queen’s Film Theatre Belfast, 180 teenagers from ten schools were invited to attend the event, alongside teachers and school leaders.

The event was hosted as part of an Education Authority pilot to explore how the acclaimed documentary series might be used as a resource in schools, to help the next generation to better understand Northern Ireland’s past.

Following an initial viewing for educationalists in October 2023, ten schools volunteered to take part in a new pilot to help co-construct a professional development module which will aid schools in the delivery of sensitive topics in class. The screening is part of this process, inviting young people to share their views of the series and how it could support classroom practice. The aim is for the final module to be rolled out to other schools in the next academic year.

The film was introduced by BBC Head of Documentaries, Clare Sillery, and school improvement professional at the Education Authority, Jayne Simms. It was followed by a panel discussion hosted by one of the creators of BBC drama Blue Lights, Declan Lawn, which featured award-winning director James Bluemel among the speakers. The Q&A saw students pose questions on the legacy of the Troubles, as well as the documentary-making process.

James Bluemel, Director, says, “Northern Ireland was always on the news when I was at school, and I think I understood the broad politics behind the events but I had no idea how anyone in Northern Ireland actually felt about living through the Troubles. That’s because, while history is made up of big stories, it is understood much better when we can hear the small, personal details. It is these stories that we as humans connect with, and that stay with us. I think it is very special that the patchwork of human stories which make up Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland may now be used as a tool for young people to better understand and connect with their own past. Thanks to the Education Authority for believing in the power of documentaries in teaching, and thanks to every one of our contributors for sharing their experiences, which have unlocked a new trove of human testimony through which to better understand the Troubles”.

Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says, “We’re delighted to do all we can to support this EA pilot by providing material from James Bluemel’s Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland for use in classrooms across Northern Ireland. The series has received many awards and five star reviews but this initiative will contribute towards a long-lasting legacy for the series, honouring the experiences the contributors shared and helping a new generation understand Northern Ireland’s past.”

Eddie Doyle, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Northern Ireland says, “Thanks to the Education Authority for progressing this pilot for young people in Northern Ireland. It’s great that the stories which make up Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland may now be used as a tool for young people to better understand and connect with the place they live. None of this would be possible without the brave contributions from all of the those featured in the series."

Jayne Simms, Shared Education and Sectoral Support for the Education Authority, says, “EA are delighted to continue to work with the BBC to share opinions and ideas on how the award winning Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland series could be used appropriately in schools. The shared education and sectoral support team have invited 180 young people to a screening in the QFT on April 16th to hear directly from pupils how this series has impacted them and how they have valued the opportunity to discuss Northern Ireland’s past in their classrooms.”

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland first aired on BBC Two, BBC Northern Ireland and BBC iPlayer in May 2023, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. It gives voice to people who lived through the Troubles, sharing previously unheard testimonies from all sides of the complex conflict. It combines unfiltered personal accounts with archive footage to tell the story of the people and communities who had to live with violence daily - and are still dealing with its legacies today.

The documentary received a slew of five star reviews and, one year on, it’s many accolades include a Broadcast Award for Best Documentary Series, two Grierson Awards, two RTS Awards and a Radio Times Reith Award. The documentary has also received four nominations for the 2024 BAFTA Television Awards, including for Best Documentary Series. It is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland (5x60) was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, and Eddie Doyle, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Northern Ireland. The five-part series is a co-commission between BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Two for BBC and PBS in partnership with The Open University, co-produced by Keo Films and Walk on Air Films, and distributed by BBC Studios.

The Director is James Bluemel. The BBC Commissioning Editors are Hamish Fergusson and Mary McKeagney, the Executive Producers for Keo Films are Will Anderson and Andrew Palmer and the Series Producers are Vicky Mitchell and Rachel Hooper. Bill Gardner is the Executive in Charge for PBS.

Source BBC TWO

April 17, 2024 3:00am ET by Newsdesk  


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