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QCAPtures - Recent News

Tackling Substance Use and Trauma: Sharing Stories, Breaking Cycles, Building Connections

On Friday 12th April, the exhibition ‘The Market: A People’s Tapestry’ launched in 2 Royal Avenue, Belfast.

“This exhibition reflects the power of community and the Arts in addressing stigma and breaking the silence that exists in relation to substance use, trauma and mental health” 

(Áine Brady)


Áine Brady (QCAP) is the Community Innovation Practitioner on our AHRC funded Creative Communities programme. She has been working in the Market community in Belfast on an innovative Arts-based programme aiming to use arts and culture to tackle substance use and improve health and wellbeing. The first stage of the programme is being shared through a powerful exhibition, curated and designed with residents of the Market Community, which offers poignant insights into the power of a creative community in confronting challenges of trauma, legacy and substance use.


Professor Kathryn Higgins (QCAP Director) highlighted:

“This exhibition is an opportunity for the community to share the work that has been done through the Creative Communities programme; and is part of a wider body of research ongoing in the Market, with QCAP, the MDA, and Market residents to help the community respond to the growth in substance use”.


A group of young people and adults from the Market community in Belfast brought the programme to life through a series of facilitated workshops alongside Matt Faris (Funky Buddha Productions) and Áine. Photography, storytelling and poetry reflect the lived experience of the community both in terms of positive aspects and the complex issues facing families.

The interwoven photographs and narratives have been used to co-curate the public exhibition chronicling the origins, evolution, and challenges for the Market community.


Maria Murtagh, a resident who took part in the project, spoke about the group experience saying:

“It’s really bonded everyone together, people opened up on experiences they’ve had around drugs and trauma for the first time and it felt like a weight off.  We are all proud to be Market people and love our community, and I hope people can feel that when they see our photos as well.”

Fionntán Hargey, Director of the Market Development Association, praised the work of the participants and highlighted that this project forms part of a wider programme of work around tackling substance use in the community:

“This exhibition is the culmination of months of hard work by residents to document their place in the city. It also demonstrates the transformative power of the arts to tackle issues like depression, addiction and substance use in a way that is as constructive as it is creative.  This work is not happening in isolation - earlier this week we launched a comprehensive community ‘Tackling Substance Use’ education programme with our partners in Queen’s Communities and Place which will run for 7 months and have also established a local family support group for families affected by substance use.”



The Principal Investigator on the project, Dr Karen McGuigan (QCAP), reflected:

“This Arts based programme has empowered the community to address the stigma and silence around important issues such as intergenerational trauma, deprivation, and substance use... Working with our partners in the programme, we hope this Creative Communities approach will serve not only to empower the Market community, but that the associated learning has relevance and reach within other communities who face similar place-based challenges.”


To read the BBC news story of 14th April about this exhibition please click here.


To view the BBC Newsline story of 15th April, please click the image below:


Peoples Tapestry BBC screenshot