Practitioners’ views on cross-community music education projects in Northern Ireland : alienation, socio-economic factors and educational potential
This article reports a qualitative investigation of the perceptions on cross-community music education activities of 14 key practitioners with experience with the two main communities in Northern Ireland (NI), Protestant and Catholic. The segregation of the NI education system is outlined in the first section, which is followed by a review of literature, cross-community projects, and the research methodology. Two hundred and sixteen pages of interview transcripts were analysed with NVivo. Interviewees reflected on current activities and on memories of their own experiences when younger, their fears and hopes. They explained how such projects are and have been organised in NI. The participants' perceptions are discussed, including their comments on 'Project processes and effectiveness', 'Music education potential' and 'Music as a sign of identity'. The reported educational activities and aims vary depending on a number of factors, one of the most important being the level of acknowledgement of integration of the educational setting, which appears to be influenced by the socio-economic environment. It is apparent that cross-community music education projects have been and continue to be an effective means of addressing prejudice amongst young people. Nevertheless, the context of each educational setting delimits the potential of such projects. Educational implications are examined in the conclusion.