Derry Girls’ blackboard goes on display as a museum piece

‘Protestants keep toasters in cupboards’ exhibition challenges NI stereotypes

The Blackboard from the openig episode of the second series of Derry Girls. A replica is now housed at a new exhibition in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Photograph: Dylan Llewellyn via Twitter

The Blackboard from the openig episode of the second series of Derry Girls. A replica is now housed at a new exhibition in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. Photograph: Dylan Llewellyn via Twitter

 
From left to right: Orla (Louise Harland), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), James (Dylan Llewellyn) and Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) in Derry Girls. Photograph: Channel 4
From left to right: Orla (Louise Harland), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), James (Dylan Llewellyn) and Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) in Derry Girls. Photograph: Channel 4

The blackboard scene from Derry Girls is already a television classic though it was only screened last year.

In it Fr Peter, played by Peter Campion, tells a mixed group of Catholic and Protestant teenager to write down the things they have in common and the things they don’t have in common.

“Protestants are British and Catholics are Irish,” piped one teenager. “Protestants are rich and Catholics are poor”. And so it went on until the blackboard for the differences was filled and the similarities were blank.

The scene gave rise to the soundbite of the series, “Protestants keep toasters in cupboards”.

The original blackboard used by Derry Girls no longer exists, but it has been faithfully recreated by the artist who designed the original for the Channel 4 series.

The blackboard has been recreated as an exhibition entitled Culture Lab: Don’t Believe the Stereotypes at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. It seeks to challenge perceptions that both communities have about each other.

Ulster Museum chief executive Kathryn Thomson said the Derry Girls blackboard sketch made people think about the serious issue of the sectarian divide in a light-hearted way.

“The blackboard has been an opportunity for us to put it on display. Though we have taken a playful approach to it, we are also wants to challenge people’s perceptions and their stereotyping,” she said.

It also includes a series of Derry Girls questions about Protestant and Catholic identity such as “do you watch RTÉ?”, “do you know anybody who plays hockey?” and “do you holiday in Bundoran?”

CultureLab also seeks to explore the complex identity of many notable figures in Irish history including Edward Carson, the father of modern unionism who was born in Dublin, and Sir Roger Casement, a Northern Protestant who was executed for his part in the Easter Rising.

Project manager Niall Kerr collected the experiences and stories of local people, which also feature at the museum.

“What’s coming through from this project is that people are moving away from traditional stereotypes or identifying as either Catholic or Protestant,” he said.

The exhibition is funded by the EU though the UK has now left through the Peace IV initiative which aims to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border region of Ireland.