On the Up? North-of-Ireland Uplands in Times of Change

When we were invited in 2021 by Northern Ireland Screen to curate a short film from their Digital Film Archive, we jumped at the chance to explore the Sperrins through film and television from the last 40 years.

We have been thinking about the marginalised uplands of the north-west of Ireland for some time. We are interested in their characteristic conifer monocultures and stretches of blanket bog. While one swallows human traces and the other preserves them, one spreads and the other shrinks, both acquire new significance in the context of climate change.

Human communities here are oft-neglected, but strong cultural traditions and the intimate knowledge they enshrine, of peripheral landscapes and how to survive in them in unsettled times with little or no outside help, is a rich resource.

We aimed to tell an open-ended story through clips of forest and bog, ancient remains and working farms, people, plants and animals. Old debates are raised, with ongoing contemporary resonance: whether about living on a remote hillside, making a local living from a bog or passing on a farm to sons and daughters, these debates essentially concern those relationships between people and place that form a constant theme in our work.

In collaboration with film maker Colm Laverty, we intercut selections from the Digital Film Archive with footage of our own, filmed on a day’s walking in the Glenelly valley. An essay by Bryonie accompanies the film, moving off from her lived experience of an uplands landscape to consider the complex histories and myriad meanings of this landscape and others like it.

You can view the film on the NI Screen Digital Film Archive website HERE

And download the essay by clicking on the following link:

On the Up? North-of-Ireland Uplands in Times of Change