Softening the border: An artist's approach

By Louise Cullen

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Image caption,
For this weekend at least, the border is soft and tactile

Uncertainty about the border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit is one of the most contentious issues facing the UK government as it continues its negotiations with the EU.

Will there be a hard border or a soft border? Customs check points or free movement? A border in the Irish Sea?

But, for this weekend at least, the border is soft and tactile, with sky-dancing dolls spinning above it, woolly-jumper-wearing cats and kaleidoscopic orbs hanging from its hard stone walls.

The project is called Soften the Border.

For months women's groups have been turning old clothes into stuffed shapes, as well as knitting and crocheting dolls.

Image caption,
The installation is all part of the Beloo Sports and Festival event

Their hard work is now festooning the bridge that denotes the border between counties Fermanagh and Cavan.

"We're knitting this little patch of the border together," said Rita Duffy, the artist behind it.

"These communities work together, hand-in-glove.

"I'm quite surprised, I always thought of this as a semi-detached village.

"But people actually co-operate and look after each other.

Image caption,
Some of the dolls knitted by women's groups on both sides of the border

"We should be doing that locally; we should be doing it universally as well."

It is part of the Belcoo Sports and festival event, which is celebrating its 70th year.

"Because it's probably one of the longest-running festivals, it does get a lot of support and a lot of cross-border support as well," said committee member Peter Gallagher.

But Mr Gallagher has his own concerns about life post-Brexit.

Image caption,
The border between counties Fermanagh and Cavan will become the UK's only land border with the EU after Brexit

"If we get to a point where we have customs checkpoints and stuff like that, the practicalities become much more difficult," he said.

"Whether it means there'll be an end to the Festival or not, only time will tell.

"But it is worrying. It's an uncertain future which I don't think any of us deserve."

But the border is everyday life here between these two villages and it's everyday concerns that have people worried.

"Will I need a passport to go to the butcher's?" one man asked.

"We hold the only cross-border St Patrick's Day parade in the world. A hard Brexit will put a stop to all that."

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