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The University of Ulster’s Magee campus today hosted a unique cultural awareness conference for school children in the north- west, showcasing organisations from different traditions.

Opened by Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, the event highlighted the work of cultural organisations such as the Grand Orange Lodge Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association, Comhaltas and the Ulster- Scots Community Network.

Over 100 pupils took part in workshops, lectures and poster presentation exploring the role of sport, language, music and culture in working towards a shared future.

There were also performances of Irish traditional music and dance and Lambeg drumming.

Welcoming guests to ‘Different Cultures, Different Perspectives, One Community’, Professor Deirdre Heenan, Provost of Magee and Coleraine and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Communication), said: “Events like these which increase mutual understanding of and respect for differing cultural traditions are hugely significant as they promote tolerance, social cohesion and community well-being.

“Helping young people gain perspective on their own community by looking at others can increase civic pride, self-esteem and confidence.”

Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, said: “The organisations involved in this conference today all have strong and historic roots within their communities.

“If we are to continue to move towards a peaceful and prosperous society we must work towards reducing distrust and misunderstanding by building understanding of one other’s traditions. The promotion of cultural awareness has to include an exchange of views, public debate and dialogue around our cultural heritage in its broadest sense; it is all about building cultural connections and exchanging ideas.

“This event represents part of the Department’s Cultural Awareness Strategy, which aims to bring forward projects that address the historical tensions between our two main indigenous cultural traditions. The fact all of the organisations here are able to come together to work together on an event such as this speaks volumes of how far we have come. I commend them on the work they have done to make this happen.

“2013 is an exciting year for cultural celebrations here in the city and the north west. I believe this conference and events like it help us to better understand our shared and differing traditions. Although we can provide the building blocks for the future it is young people that will shape and develop this shared future so I am pleased so many schools have taken to opportunity to be here at Magee.”