Where did it begin? In time, more capable biographers will describe the full detail of the journey. For now, I will explain the seed of thought that inspired the idea. The magic beans that we held in our pocket?
To be honest, as always, necessity was the mother of the idea. In the sea of time, there once existed a different age, one that allowed History teachers to meet together at the end of the year to display and discuss best practice and new resources. There once existed a central conduit of help that allowed teachers to learn from each other. Teachers benefited from exploring ideas together. For whatever reason, this all disappeared.
Corrymeela, several years ago. A mythical organisation called Euroclio showcased all the ways in which History teachers from all across Europe were collaborating with each other to develop and deliver lessons and resources to suit the needs of all History teachers. Of course, it will hardly surprise you, that I was extolling the importance of collecting and storing Oral History narratives, memories that would help explain the Troubles to future generations. Perhaps – we will create a CGI character to deliver these lessons in the future? Hopefully. I initially met with a really interesting Croatian academic who was an expert on Soviet Historiography. I was extremely impressed. Fortuitously, I headed out to Belgrade to attend at an evaluation of the Council of Europe’s Shared Histories for a Europe without Dividing Lines and I met some great people. This project invited History teachers and academics to contribute to, shape and deliver a FREE resource to teachers throughout Europe. I was massively impressed. Even more so, as the short presentation I delivered on the importance of music and memory was mentioned in the last summing up. I was very humbled actually. Just saying. That resource is amazing. And absolutely free.
Skype conversations followed with Euroclio central. Alan, our leader at UU, helped push forward the idea that it would be great to host a Euroclio Conference in Belfast. Honestly, I am amazed at how successful the event was and I have already attributed that success to the Euroclio gang, who worked tirelessly in advance of the event. They were fantastic.
One of the key goals of the Euroclio Conference was the foundation of the HTANI. As is the way in Northern Ireland, we had discussions about discussions and parallel working groups and a founding plenary at the main event, plus a wonderful occasion at Titanic Belfast. I think we managed to irritate some people. We had a very pertinent conversation on the last evening, where everything was laid on the table. We cleared the air. I can’t analyse exactly why it didn’t materialise initially. I think that some people thought that we were setting up a strange cult.
What I know now is that the magic beans (the essential and necessary idea) we held in our pockets had not yet been distributed to the key characters who could make our Association a reality. This has now happened. We have assembled a core group of the creative, the journalistic, the retired, the motivated, the talented and the committed. Our launch event was filled with positive vibes and allowed us to enlist more teachers to lead the venture forward. The HTANI is beginning to develop roots. It is becoming a reality, thanks to everyone who is now getting involved.