Harriet Vickers

Temple 2015 | Peace and Reconciliation | Warrington to Derry~Londonderry

March 19, 2015 | Nick Taylor

Spring is a time that the natural world reminds us of the power of life. Trees and plants start to bud and blossom, species of animal such as sheep give birth. It is a season when the air seems clear, daylight lengthens, when we feel hope, optimism and renewal.

In 1993, Bridge Street in a northern English town, Warrington, reflected that spirit of hope. It was the day before Mothering Sunday and families were out shopping for presents. When the first bomb exploded all sense of the positivity of Spring was shattered. There was no warning. Shops evacuated, many people ran, some more curious came to look and then the second explosion came. Semtex in an enclosed bin creates a ‘grenade’ of enormous power and the shrapnel goes horizontally meaning children and lower limbs are those at greatest risk.

Johnathan Ball, aged three, died on the street. Tim Parry, aged twelve, took the full force of the blast – he didn’t stand a chance – his life support system was turned off five days later. Bronwen Vickers, a young mother had her leg in a position that shielded her four year old daughter Hannah and her 13-day-old baby, Harriet was protected by her pram. Bronwen lost her leg and over a year later her life. 54 others seriously injured and thousands affected.

The IRA activists were long gone and have never been caught. The global outcry was intense, from London to Dublin, thousands took to the streets united by a cry of ‘enough is enough,’ politicians and the protagonists couldn’t ignore it and Warrington is long remembered as a seminal moment in a peace process that continues to this day.

There was anger and confusion, but from early days there was a spirit of questioning, a search for answers and a desire not to seek revenge, justice or retribution but rather to look at how reconciliation could take place so no other person would face this experience.

That desire for reconciliation became a search for peace and the boys became a symbol of that activity, stimulating Warrington organisations from choirs to faith groups to newly formed charities to sporting clubs – joining together in a spirt of enterprise and reconciliation to forward the cause of peace.

Some 22 years on, that peace movement is now a global force. At the heart of the town, Bridge Street remains as it was but is adorned with incredible public art and street furniture sculpted with the input of children and with a central ‘River of Life’ theme and waterfall feature, acting as a memorial and sitting at the scene of the incident.

Many organisations like faith groups, the local Council and the football club actively promote peace and reconciliation.

Two kilometres from the town centre stands the incredible Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre. A large-scale building in its own grounds, constructed of wood and shaped like a dove. The Centre is a major facility with spaces for sport and art, residential facilities, cafes, restaurants and indoor and outdoors spaces used to deliver innovative projects and conferences.

The Foundation, set up in memory of the boys, has developed to be one of Europe’s leading conflict resolution and peace building specialists operating a United Kingdom Survivors Assistance Network supporting victims, survivors and those affected by terrorism, war and political violence. The Foundation also works across all areas of prevention and resolution of such violent conflict promoting dialogue, citizenship, violence prevention through to be being at the forefront of practice in countering extremism and de-radicalisation.

The basis of this work that now tackles contemporary conflicts as well as the legacy of the past came from the tragic and horrific incident twenty-two years ago and the learning from ‘the Troubles’ on our islands. That work of reconciliation and understanding between our countries and communities must never end.

Together, we must celebrate and respect our shared lives and cultures.

On a hill overlooking the city of Derry~Londonderry stands a structure called Temple. This is no ordinary building, as until a few weeks ago it didn’t exist, and like many other aspects of Spring, this extraordinary project is growing and taking shape alongside all the the elements of life and nature itself.

The Temple is part of a radical arts project by creative producers Artichoke with ‘Burning Man’ artist David Best.

Together with people from across the local community, a beautiful shared structure is being built that will soar up high before it is ceremonially burnt. Temple turns traditional associations with bonfire burning in Northern Ireland on their head.

The build and the burn is set to bring lifelong memories for the City, but Temple has a resonance and a legacy that goes much further. The grand structure is the artists, but its detail, story and narrative will be shaped by people from across Derry~Londonderry and beyond.

The building and the burn coincides with the twenty second anniversary of the Warrington bombing and the commemoration and reflection that goes alongside our renewed seasonal hopes for reconciliation and peace.

On Monday 16th March, a small delegation from Warrington traveled to the Temple.  READ THE PRESS RELEASE. The delegation consisted of Warrington faith and community leaders, representatives of the Peace Centre and Harriet Vickers, the daughter of Bronwen and no longer the 13-day-old baby that survived the Warrington bombing, but a young woman now working full time for peace and reconciliation. They carried with them a symbol of peace (see picture) to place inside the structure and to represent our collective desire for peace. The symbol combined two elements of life – water and earth.

Peace Centre

Mike O’Hara starts to prepare the symbol’s frame from the Peace Tree

The earth represented by a frame made of branch cuttings taken from the Peace Tree (see our colleague Mike O’Hara cutting the tree and his frame on the main picture). The tree was planted at the tenth anniversary of the Warrington bombing and every year on the anniversary day, water is brought from the River of Life memorial to the tree to coincide with the beginning of Spring and as the tree buds reflecting our renewed hopes. In the frame will be a picture of the Centre, set up in memory of the boys, and the home of inspirational work for peace globally; and also the continuing east west dimension of ‘the Troubles’ peace process.

Bridge Street

A sample of water from the River of Life to be taken to the Temple in Northern Ireland

Water from the River of Life was brought to the Temple and mixed with water from Northern Ireland to symbolise how at our basic elements we are all as one of the same. These two symbols of hope and life – water and earth were left in the Temple and then air and fire, the other two elements, will be added at the burn to create a symbolic desire for peace on our islands and beyond.

The artists hope that the vision of Temple is that the combined experience of all inputs to Temple, and the thousands of hours that local volunteers will put into building it, creates a moving space for thought, reflection and contemplation.

When it burns all is renewed and revitalised in a shared experience for the City and beyond. Our visit and peace symbols of earth, water, fire and air, will be a part of that.

On the day of the burn our team will be working for peace in County Donegal, Ireland; leading an exercise with people from across our islands who have experienced severe trauma due to violent conflict. The group of about thirty people will attend the burn to act as witness to our hopes FOR PEACE.

Nick Taylor | March 2015 | additional words Artichoke