Hilary Copeland
Hilary Copeland

Hilary Copeland grew up in Loughbrickland, Co. Down, where she attended New-Bridge Integrated College. Hilary has worked in arts management since 2008. Whilst studying English Literature at the University of St Andrews she was a venue assistant at the Stanza Poetry Festival and The Byre Theatre. After graduating Hilary volunteered with Culture Northern Ireland and the inaugural Belfast Book Festival before joining the Programming Team at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the world’s largest literary festival. From 2010 she worked on a freelance basis for clients including the Belfast Festival, Kabosh, Whittrick Press, Young at Art, and Belfast Children’s Festival. Hilary was appointed General Manager of The John Hewitt Society in 2014. She is Chair of the Northern Ireland group of the Integrated AlumNI and a board member of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.

Hilary first got involved with the Integrated AlumNI in November 2014. She addressed the House of Lords in November 2015 on behalf of the Integrated AlumNI, speaking about her experience as one of the early intake of pupils at New-Bridge Integrated College, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the college that year.

Hilary says, “An integrated education has shaped me more than I could ever have imagined.

“I remember when I lived in Edinburgh trying to explain integrated education to friends there, who were very confused as to what the concept involved. Certainly in most areas of the UK, the idea of girls and boys from a variety of backgrounds, religions and communities is simply just ‘school’.

“But it was only when I moved back to Northern Ireland in 2010 and started working alongside people who had very different upbringings from my own that I realised that’s what it

meant to me too. That learning & working & making friends with all kinds of people, who could talk about our differences and even joke about the same things that we saw the rest of our country fight about, was so much a normal part of our education that it was just ‘school’ to us. And on moving back, I became very aware that for 95% of children in Northern Ireland their experience of ‘school’ is not at all the same, and that this was something I felt my experiences could perhaps change.

“I’m general manager of The John Hewitt Society, a community arts charity that promotes the use of literature and arts as a means to creatively explore issues of division and identity in Northern Ireland’s divided society.

“Since January 2015 we’ve been engaging creative writing facilitators to work with community groups in some of the top 10% of the most socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Greater Belfast

“Hearing the stories of individuals who have grow up less than 30 miles away from me but whose teenage years were a world away from my own, has driven my desire to take an active role in the Integrated AlumNI.”