A play to remember history

EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2017. The Big Wall project used theatre to motivate adults who have been unlucky in education.

Born out of a need for a more inclusive programme that targeted all adults who have been unlucky in education, “The Big Wall” project developed by the Hawk’s Well Theatre (HWT) realized an immersive piece of theatre at Sligo Courthouse and Sligo Prison. The play marked the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising that led Ireland to its independence from Britain.

The programme brought together 66 learners from wide-ranging age groups, interests and skills levels in order to share history.

“The programme involved the public at every stage, attracting learners from all age ranges within our community, and provided multi-levelled education in a non-formal and creative setting,” says Jane Parsons who has been working in the project.

Wide public engagement

During the preliminary research phase, the participants started collecting local stories, which served as the basis of the play. As The Big Wall programme was based on the stories of Sligo told by the people of Sligo, it was fundamental to include multiple levels of community engagement. Including public involvement at research, development and performance phases of the project was critical to the authenticity of the project.

“This methodology proved to be an effective way of engaging a wide range of participants, from different social and economic backgrounds, including many unlikely learners.”

Finally, the 28 Acting for Adult’s participants were invited to join the cast of 6 professional actors and local youth drama groups. Heritage tours were also provided so that learners could gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the historical buildings used within the show. The show, an immersive theatrical experience, ran for 5 days, with 24 sold-out performances.

Thanks to this project, participants developed acting skills and reviewed the history of Sligo circa 1916. The Big Wall was transformative for both participants and audiences, giving them a multilevel experience, placing the learner in the very centre of the programme and generating a huge amount of interest locally.

The project had the additional outcome of igniting public interest in the social history of Sligo, resulting in a renewed interest in preservation and restoration of the past for future generations.

“Embedding the education programme within larger 1916 national anniversary programme gave the learners a real opportunity to work alongside professional actors and crew. This element of the programme attached people interested in drama and history as well as a general interest in being involved in a national remembrance.”

The project: The Big Wall

  • Award category: National projects (Ireland)
  • Learner target group: Adults who have been unlucky in education
  • Innovative practice: Involving the public in the educational activities

Project coordinator


The article series shares good practices on engaging new learners by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2017. 

Text: Lou-Andréa PinsonPhotos: Big Wall project

09.08.2022 disabled

Brave New Words: Creating Learning Pathways for Special Learning Disorders

“Critical thinking and autonomy are core values of transformative learning”, says Sonia Nicoforo Project Manager of CEIPES. BRAVE NEW WORDS, the winning project of Grundtvig Awards in the Transnational Category focuses on cultivating innovative learning through 3D Printing and Augmented Reality in the field of Special Education.

20.07.2022 EAEA members

Harnessing the power of knowledge for employment and personal development: meet Odyssea

Recently, Odyssea became an associate member of EAEA. Odyssea is a non-profit organisation based in Athens, Greece, that supports young vulnerable people in gaining access to employment opportunities in society. Thodoris Kostoulas, Programme Manager of Odyssea, gives insight into the main activities of the organisation and its future plans.

13.07.2022 advocacy

Guidance for learning and career in the spotlight at the EAEA Younger Staff Training this September

Are you interested in guidance for learning and career? Would you like to build a new professional network? Join the EAEA Younger Staff Training, which will take place on 12-16 September in Brussels, Belgium. Registrations are now open!