Written by Andy Duggan

“My first contact with the Foundation was in 2009. I had a novel published that year, about a man’s struggle to recover from the trauma of a terrorist bomb. An article about the book appeared in the Warrington Guardian, and the Foundation team contacted me as a result. I called in, met with the team and drank the first of the many cups of tea I’ve had at the Peace Centre.

What appealed to me initially was the ‘Sharing Experiences’ Residential, a chance to share my story with others who’d had similar experiences. I’d never had the opportunity to do that before. I was very apprehensive and wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. And, to put it bluntly, felt like a bit of a fraud.

I was an eyewitness to a bomb – that’s how I see myself, not as a survivor or a victim. I was uninjured, the lasting effect it did have was to trigger a passion for writing. Compared to people who’ve suffered themselves, or suffered the loss of someone close to them, what would I have to say? It didn’t feel as though I had a story, other than to say I was there and saw some of what happened.

Those anxieties disappeared over the course of that first residential. I found a mutually-supportive atmosphere, I was left feeling my personal story was every bit as valued as those of the other participants. In short, I was given a voice I didn’t think I had. That, to me, is one of the key strengths of the programme. I found the effect of being caught up in a major terrorist incident was to make me feel totally insignificant. The power of the ‘Sharing Experiences’ residential is that it can make people feel like they matter and that their personal stories matter.

I’ve gone through life mostly meeting people with a similar background to my own. I’ve spent my working life in the IT industry, in a dry, technical, largely impersonal environment. I’ve probably spent too much time learning to be a technical expert, and not enough time learning about people. The Foundation has brought me into contact with people from diverse backgrounds. I’ve met people I wouldn’t otherwise have met, heard stories I wouldn’t otherwise have heard, and learned a lot about human nature. One example, I’ve got some insight now into how difficult it can be for armed services personnel to adjust to civilian life. I could pick many more examples.

The Foundation has given me the chance to get involved in more people-orientated activities than I’d otherwise take part in, and made me feel part of a community. It’s opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about, that of peace-building and conflict resolution. I feel as though there’s still a lot I have to learn.

I’ve worked in many soulless offices in my career. The Peace Centre is a total contrast, it’s a building that has soul and personality.  It’s a credit to Colin and Wendy Parry and the team that created it, and to the people that have since been part of the day-to-day running. The people of Warrington should be proud of how such a place sprang from the tragic deaths of Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball. My only regret is that I didn’t make the time to find out about the work done at the Peace Centre a long time ago.”