Everyone deals with stress and conflict in their personal lives. Throughout my life, in times of stress and conflict I have turned to music. People in Northern Ireland, however, have a different experience than people in America. The kind of conflict they deal with on a day-to-day basis is unimaginable.

In Times Of Trouble

The Troubles” refer to the deep-rooted violent conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.  Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Northern Ireland with eleven other Furman students. We learned about creative ways to deal with conflict with some connections we made in Northern Ireland.

Before I went to Northern Ireland, I thought the conflict between Catholics and Protestants was purely a religious thing. Having grown up Christian, I couldn’t understand how two Christian groups could have so much socially invasive conflict between them. It turns out, the conflicts are more political than anything. Take a look at what I learned and how music impacted my experience.

In Times of Trouble: Final Cut from Sophie Harris on Vimeo.

I can’t stress enough how different the atmosphere is in places like Belfast or Derry/Londonderry. People build “peace walls” to separate Catholic areas and Protestant areas to prevent violence, like in the photo below. The walls are so high because that way people can’t throw things at the other side.

Peace wall in Belfast seen from the Protestant side. Photo: Sophie Harris

Live music’s impact in Northern Ireland

In the 1970s, live punk music in Belfast inspired a man named Terri Hooley to open a record store called Good Vibrations, which later turned into a record label. On one of our first days in Ireland we watched a movie about Hooley’s impact.

The Troubles were at their worst in the 1970s and Belfast was full of violence. Hooley saw an unsigned band perform at a small venue in Belfast right after he opened his record store in the most violent area of town. At the venue, he was surrounded by fun-loving people who were all there for the same reason. In that moment, every person there was transported from The Troubles to a world where nothing exists but the music right there in front of you.

…and the rest of the world

Most of you reading this probably do not live in Northern Ireland. Many of you might have never traveled there. But live music helps people in their own troubles.

Every one of you has dealt with conflict. Whether it be internal conflict within yourself or a dispute between you and other people, we all have stories. And we all want a place to get away from that conflict.

That place is a concert.

Two friends ran up to each other and united while Wet played an engaging opening set. Photo: Sophie Harris

Thinking outside the stage

This is why it’s important to photograph the fans at a concert, and not enough music photographers do this. Every person has a story. Every person has conflicts they want to escape from. And every person experiences the music in front of them in a different way. Photographs of fans reflect their stories and their feelings. Musicians perform to change lives, and through photos of fans, you can see music changing their lives right before your eyes.