Pupils at a Belfast school have created a poetry and photography anthology reflecting on their time during lockdown.
First Minister Paul Givan and junior minister Declan Kearney joined pupils at St Colm’s High School to launch the collection entitled The Times That Shape Us.
The project came about as part of the Creative Schools Partnership, an initiative supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, National Lottery funding, the Executive’s Urban Villages Initiative and the Education Authority.
The pupils’ focus was improving mental health and wellbeing through poetry, photography and music, and they worked with a range of artists including poet Danielle Carragher on the year-long project.
The poems composed by the young people reflect their time in lockdown and how the period affected their mental health.
They also produced a collection of photographs of what mattered to them during the pandemic.
“It has been inspirational to witness how they channelled their experiences of the pandemic and lockdown into poetry, photography and music.
“These young people come from an area with many socioeconomic problems and challenges, and here at St Colm’s we have seen an acute rise in young people with anxiety and other mental health issues since lockdown and the subsequent return to school.”
Mr Givan said: “The poetry anthology and photographic exhibition that they have created are excellent.
“The students have expressed their journey through Covid so well; this is not only a wonderful expression of creativity, it is literally a snapshot, it has captured a moment, recording a short social documentary of life in a pandemic.”
“Their efforts will not only benefit their lives, but also those of their peers who have been through similar experiences during the pandemic.”
St Colm’s is one of 11 secondary schools in the Creative Schools Partnership.
Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The students at St Colm’s have created a unique record of this pandemic, and of the impact of lockdown on their lives.
“The artists and teachers involved have introduced them to new ways of creative thinking and expression; that has been our goal throughout this programme.”