The Diamond in Derry~Londonderry is home to the oldest independent department store in the world. Austins was trading in the city more than a decade before Harrods of London was built and its presence in Derry predates the Famine.
To celebrate its contribution to commercial life in the city, a team from the University of Ulster, drawing on expertise from both the Arts and Humanities Research Institute and the Art and Design Research Institute, has secured funding from the Culture Company to produce a two-part research project. The initiative will use performance techniques to explore the relationship between memory and place in this culturally significant and iconic building.
The first part of the project – Memory Store – will take place on Thursday 14 November. It is a day-long series of interactive, live events which will include workshops, dancing and pop-up exhibitions. Memory Store will offer visitors a forum for sharing their recollections of the store and the city, in this landmark City of Culture year.
Dr Paul Devlin, lecturer in drama and director of the project, said: “Memory Store is fundamentally about sharing. In our work we use performance techniques to create relationships with people and to explore and ask questions of ourselves.
“Austins offers us a unique way to look at the history of the city from a singular site. It can distil and focus our thinking. The meaning we attach to a location such as Austins, which has both international and local significance, reveals a lot about where we are as a city.
“This is a truly collaborative project – as well as contributions from 40 skilled and enthusiastic students in the School of Creative Arts and Technologies, we will welcome input from the community as well as the expertise of a designer, composer, sound artist, director, playwright and a range of theatre specialists.”
The Big Shop Show – the second part of the project – will take place from 7.30-9.30pm on Thursday 5 and Friday 6 December. Based on the response to the first part of the project, it will include a series of live performances staged in Austins.
Adrian O’Connell, project producer, added: "The Memory Store project is a great opportunity for me as a researcher and producer to work on the ground with the local community, international collaborators and students, and to engage with other disciplines across the School of Creative Arts and Technologies.
“My research is in the field of digital storytelling in a post-conflict environment. This work is centred around memory and experience and applicable in many different contexts. We have been developing this work for 18 months and are excited by the possibilities of the experience day on 14 November.”
Dr Justin Magee, subject director for design, whose students are participating, explained:“Students on the BDes Design for Creative Practice will explore the development of novel 3D objects with an emotional context to the project. These may be tangible products or 3D digital content.
“Alongside this, drama and dance students will work with professional artists and designers to deliver the project.”
The outcomes of the research will be published as part of the Cities of Memory research project which aims to examine how theatre, performance, film and the visual arts address post-conflict situations. In addition, Terry Quigley, lecturer in creative technologies and design, is working closely with the project to develop a bespoke web archive for Austins, which will enable the local community to contribute and build an online, living archive of memories for future users.
Further details are available from Paul Devlin on 028 7167 5116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.