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Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin are Northern Ireland's largest InterCultural Arts Organisation established in 2004.

Through a diverse creative team of professional artists, facilitators, global educators & multimedia specialists, Beyond Skin develops & delivers global & diversity education projects, events and festivals in an aim to address issues of racism & sectarianism.

With over 10 years experience the Beyond Skin reputation precedes them as being innovative, ethical, ground-breaking and always delivering what they set out to do, generating legacies and real outcomes along the way.

Beyond Skin's passion to empower people to reach their full potential as global citizens is infectious; bringing out the best in people, building confidence, aspiration and addressing stereotypes and fears. The Beyond Skin team & projects provide access through inclusive and enjoyable experiences, opportunities for people to explore the wider world and learn more about their global neighbours.

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The Inspiration for Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin was founded in 2004 by musician, community and development aid worker Darren Ferguson.

It was the combination of negative & positive social and artistic elements that led to the formation of the organisation. In addition to the consistent negative stereotype of Northern Ireland regarding the sectarian conflict, in 2004 Belfast hit the international headlines as 'Race-Hate capital of Europe' - read this article online.

At the time Darren was working for Concern Worldwide and along with friends that shared an interest in music and development education, recognised that the arts combined with a DE philosophy could assist greatly in addressing local issues of sectarianism and racism. But a magic ingredient was needed that would define the vision and ethos of a new organisation.

It was down to fate that this ingredient entered Darren's life or rather his stereo through three artistic world conscience sources.

Nitin Sawhney - Musician, Composer

In 2004 Nitin's 6th album 'Human' had just been released but it was the influence and message of his 4th album 'Beyond Skin' that made a massive impact in Darren's life. The album contained the quote from Nitin "My identity and my history are defined only by myself - Beyond politics, beyond nationality, beyond religion & beyond skin." Endorsed by a few close friends Darren adopted the name for the new organisation. Darren was also drawn towards Nitin's passion in promoting human rights and equality achieving the Commission for Racial Equality Award in 2003.

1 Giant Leap

Meanwhile in at the same time Darren had come across an audio/visual project produced by English artists Jamie Catto & Duncan Bridgeman that aimed to find the unity in the diversity through a narrative of music & spoken word.

The DVD had an impact so much on Darren's life it became the first Beyond Skin project with a two week Belfast programme of 1 Giant Leap cinema screenings, discussions, special guest events and a concert with Jamie, Duncan and the 1 Giant Leap band. The project was a great success. The way in which 1 Giant Leap was produced capturing the moment of inspiration and recognising also how amazing people are who aren't famous sharpened further the ethos and character of Beyond Skin.

Peter Gabriel

Darren was also a big fan of Peter Gabriel an English singer-songwriter, musician and humanitarian activist who rose to fame as the lead vocalist of the progressive rock band Genesis. Peter Gabriel has been a champion of world music for much of his career. He co-founded the WOMAD festival in 1982 whilst also focusing on producing and promoting world music through his Real World Records label. Peter has been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts. In 1980, he released the anti-apartheid single "Biko". He has participated in several human rights benefit concerts, including Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! tour in 1988, and co-founded the WITNESS human rights organisation in 1992.

The influence of the world conscious artistic visionaries and innovators (Sawhney, Gabriel, Catto & Bridgeman) combined with a passion to create change in Northern Ireland through a very different community relations model defined the roots, ethos, vision and drive of Beyond Skin that still remains strong with the organisation today. It has been an amazing journey and just like the organic production and process of the 1 Giant Leap project it has been the people we have met incidentally along the way that has made it possible to deliver the Beyond Skin vision.
"If you can be an individual and part of it all at the same time, you've got it made"Ram Das - 1 Giant Leap