New documentary focuses on the lives and achievements of Black people in Northern Ireland

"This documentary isn't just about race but also about what people, who you might've overlooked, contribute to Northern Irish society."

A new documentary set to focus on the lives and achievements of black people living in Northern Ireland is entering its final stages before it will be broadcast.

Named ‘We Are Here’, the documentary shares the stories of over a dozen people who live in Northern Ireland, delving into their lives, their achievements and their experiences.

The documentary was produced by Lindsay Duke and is a follow-up to a previous documentary, ‘Black and Northern Irish’. Lindsay also worked on a similar project when he created an advert last year which highlighted Black History Month in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Lindsay told us that his new project will shed a light on the wide variety of experiences of people living in Northern Ireland.

He said: “I was the original producer for Black and Northern Irish and I started working on this because I realised there was a lot of different stories that needed to be told, especially for black and mixed race people in Northern Ireland, and that it would be worth highlighting this to the public.

“My goal from the start was to look for other black people within the film production industry, who were not specifically getting opportunities, to give them a chance to do work on this project.

“The reason I did that was because I wanted to show the talent in Northern Ireland and the diversity of the talent here, and explore different stories of people here in Northern Ireland.”

For the documentary, Lindsay enlisted the help of a diverse group of local talent, from all backgrounds. These included director Tolu ogunware, cinematographer Peter Johnston, sound recordist Andy Mcdermott, camera assistant Hannah Mccallum, photographer Macy Stewart, camera operator Andre Tavares, editor Lloyd Edgar and graphics Sean Tait.

He then spoke to 14 people of black or mixed race backgrounds, all with different experiences. As he notes, some of the conversations were about racism, but many more were about the role these individuals play in Northern Ireland life in general.

Lindsay explained: “This documentary isn’t just about race but also about what people, who you might’ve overlooked, contribute to Northern Irish society.

“We spoke to a Human Rights Lawyer here – I wanted to introduce people to her. I think people might assume, ‘Oh they’re black and from Northern Ireland.’ Well, yes, but that’s not the story, the story is that they’re in this place like you, they’re part of what makes up this place, they’re related to you.

“It was important for me to put these people out there, to shine a light on what they’re doing. When this gets shown to the public, people won’t be able to say, ‘There aren’t people of colour in Northern Ireland’. They are there. In every industry – filming, modelling, legal roles – all the examples we’re showing here.

“So I would say that what we’re doing isn’t necessarily highlighting issues with race in Northern Ireland, but highlighting solutions, highlighting achievements. It’s a local production with local people, but it also offers local solutions to how we can understand race.”

Lindsay’s own background in Northern Ireland helped him get to a position where he was able to tell these stories.

“I’ve been living in NI for almost 22 years,” he told us. “My background is music. I’ve always been involved in running events, bringing music to Northern Ireland. But in recent years I’ve been involved in things which…The only way to put it is – it’s about me helping people to understand each other.

“I’ve run nights for years in clubs and dance events here, where even though it’s musical, it’s primarily a social thing. That was the point of it. Nowadays everything is more visual, we’re seeing things more than ever, so I moved into film and I decided I wanted these stories, in this place, to be told.”

The documentary itself is set to be released this year. Lindsay said that he’s in the final stages of finding a home for it with a TV network.

“We are currently having conversations with networks,” he said. “They’ve seen the trailer and they like the concept. We’re in advance stages of conversations, and I’m pretty certain that it’ll be picked up by networks. For me, this is something that has to be seen by local people.”