23rd Oct 2016Mailing List

About Us

Once Upon A Time...

Established in January 2004, Beyond Skin is an organisation which uses Music, Arts & Media to assist in the building & development of cultural relations in Northern Ireland, with the overall aim of addressing issues of racism & sectarianism.

Key objectives

  • To address racism & sectarianism in Northern Ireland through multicultural arts.
  • To promote positive attributes reflected from a society made up of different cultures.
  • To promote multicultural arts for the benefit of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland.
  • To promote racial harmony and the exchange of cultural ideas and relations through the medium of the arts.
  • To contribute to maintaining a peaceful society in Northern Ireland.
  • To increase social awareness of different cultures within Northern Ireland.
  • To increase links between communities from different cultural backgrounds.
  • To present, promote, organise, manage and produce performances and exhibitions of works of cultural and educational value.

The Organisation

Beyond Skin is an organisation based in Northern Ireland, which was established in January 2004 to use Music & Arts as a tool for cultural education & exchange in an aim to address issues of racism & sectarianism.

Since its inception, Beyond Skin has provided a professional service of diversity and global education using artistic methods for; local councils, education boards, schools, community groups, businesses and social enterprises. During this time Beyond Skin has gathered a well-respected track record within the communities of Northern Ireland and also internationally; nurturing the skills of local and international people whilst externally impacting greatly on community development and the arts sector.

Beyond Skin has provided training, paid employment, and assisted business development for over 200 people representing over 50 nationalities. Beyond Skin develop and deliver projects, programmes, events and festivals all of which are designed in-house and in partnership with local and/or international artists or organisations with complementary objectives. We also develop and deliver bespoke projects for clients.

What makes us unique at Beyond Skin is the quality, strength, professionalism and diversity of our team. This group of artists, technicians, journalists, global educators and volunteers sets us apart. The cohesiveness and chemistry within the team enables us to offer the biggest range of intercultural arts projects in Northern Ireland, providing creative opportunities and link to our partners worldwide.

We see ourselves as a Global Family - a dynamic team of motivated individuals passionate about encouraging positive social change and empowering people to celebrate diversity through art, music and dance.

The Birth of Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin was founded in 2004 by musician and community & development aid worker Darren Ferguson.

The combination of negative and positive, social and artistic elements, led to the formation of the organisation. Northern Ireland has suffered from a negative stereotype regarding the sectarian conflict for many years. A damaging blow came in 2004 when Belfast hit the headlines on an international scale as the 'Race-Hate capital of Europe' source: BBC NI - link

At this time Darren was working for Concern Worldwide and with friends who shared his interest in music and development education. It was then he recognised that if the arts were combined with a DE philosophy, it could assist greatly in addressing local issues of sectarianism and racism. But he knew there had to be more - a 'magic' ingredient was needed that would define the vision and ethos of a new, potentially groundbreaking, organisation.

Fate presented this 'magic' ingredient to Darren through his stereo...3 artistic, world conscience sources entered Darren's life...

Nitin Sawhney

Musician, Composer

In 2004 Nitin's 6th album 'Human' had just been released but it was the influence and message of his 4th album 'Beyond Skin' that made a massive impact in Darren's life. The album contained the quote from Nitin "My identity and my history are defined only by myself - Beyond politics, beyond nationality, beyond religion & beyond skin." Endorsed by a few close friends Darren adopted the name for the new organisation. Darren was also drawn towards Nitin's passion in promoting human rights and equality achieving the Commission for Racial Equality Award in 2003.

1 Giant Leap

Musicians, Pioneers

Meanwhile in at the same time Darren had come across an audio/visual project produced by English artists Jamie Catto & Duncan Bridgeman that aimed to find the unity in the diversity through a narrative of music & spoken word.

The DVD had an impact so much on Darren's life it became the first Beyond Skin project with a two week Belfast programme of 1 Giant Leap cinema screenings, discussions, special guest events and a concert with Jamie, Duncan and the 1 Giant Leap band. The project was a great success. The way in which 1 Giant Leap was produced capturing the moment of inspiration and recognising also how amazing people are who aren't famous sharpened further the ethos and character of Beyond Skin.

Peter Gabriel

Musician, Humanitarian

Darren was also a big fan of Peter Gabriel an English singer-songwriter, musician and humanitarian activist who rose to fame as the lead vocalist of the progressive rock band Genesis. Peter Gabriel has been a champion of world music for much of his career. He co-founded the WOMAD festival in 1982 whilst also focusing on producing and promoting world music through his Real World Records label. Peter has been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts. In 1980, he released the anti-apartheid single "Biko". He has participated in several human rights benefit concerts, including Amnesty International's 'Human Rights Now!' tour in 1988, and co-founded the WITNESS human rights organisation in 1992.

The influence of the world conscious artistic visionaries and innovators (Sawhney, Gabriel, Catto & Bridgeman) combined with a passion to create change in Northern Ireland through a very different community relations model defined the roots, ethos, vision and drive of Beyond Skin that still remains strong with the organisation today. It has been an amazing journey and just like the organic production and process of the 1 Giant Leap project it has been the people we have met incidentally along the way that has made it possible to deliver the Beyond Skin vision.

"If you can be an individual and part of it all at the same time, you've got it made" - Ram Das, 1 Giant Leap

Board of Trustees

Beyond Skin is a Northern Ireland charity NIC NIC101795 with an office located in Belfast City at the Belfast Carnival Centre, 11-47 Boyd Street, BT13 2GU.

Beyond Skin have a managing committee of 9 trustees, an operations manager, a communications officer, and an administrative assistant. The management is support by a team of freelance skilled personnel and volunteers who manage and deliver the activities. The management board hold formal meetings every month.

Beyond Skin Board of Trustees Board of Trustees: L-R Julie Williams Nash, Michael McKeown, Paul McIlwaine, Marty Coyle, Lisa Rose, Catherine McKenna, Anna Grindle, Róisín Mohan, Maire Gratton


To be the first choice arts organisation delivering diversity and global education through art, music and dance.

Mission Statement

Celebrating diversity through music, arts, dance & new media.

Organisational Values


We recognise that an organisation's success depends on the integrity of its employees, therefore we will aim to continue to support the needs of employees through training, on-site experience and mentoring for other individuals within the organisation.

Due to the diverse team within the organisation we will ensure to maximise opportunities for sharing knowledge about cultural sensitivities, traditions and beliefs.


As an organisation we will endeavour to stick clearly to our vision, mission and aims as a undivided unit.

We will maintain our honesty, fairness & sincerity representing as one body, a distinctive good character that is synonymous with the organisation. Having a reputation for always delivering and can be relied upon to complete project and achieve the best possible outcomes.

Respect & Empathy

Listening and adapting to the needs participants, artists, volunteers & staff. Having a good understanding of cultural traditions & beliefs. Ensuring at all times the welfare of facilitating artists, volunteers and staff is put first.

To be approachable and have the correct systems in place to gather and follow up any issues people may have directly linked to the organisation. Facilitating and evaluating in a non-judgemental manner understanding the root of negative attitudes people may have. Understanding external environments and their influence on social attitudes.


We always aim so see the best in people. We are committed to enabling people to reach their full potential to create a peaceful and equal society. Showing and doing are the true definition of education, by bringing out the best in people using the arts.

We recognize that young people regardless of their education, position in society, or socio-economic status, have inborn creative capacity for unbounded achievement. We will continue to strive to assist people develop self-confidence, aspiration and creative skills through a process of diversity & cultural education.


We have never been comfortable sitting still and continue to develop ideas beyond what has gone before. We are not afraid to go 'against the grain' and our creative resource through people enables us to adapt, shift the paradigm and develop new artistic & educational models.

We utilise new technology and social media but always ensure a balance as we recognise that people need to physically share a space with others to experience a higher impact of learning and cultural exchange.

Strategic Objectives

For period 2014-17

1 To become an organisation that is self-sustaining financially by 2017. 2 To increase organisational agility to respond to new opportunities. 3 To develop new corporate sponsorship relationships with the Business Sector. 4 To build a cash reserve that enables the organisation to build organisation capacity to deliver more projects. 5 To develop a clear business model for the organisation.

1 To continue to develop our portfolio of services that address current and future customers' needs.
2 Build organisational capacity to deliver innovative bespoke services to customers.
3 To seek out opportunities to work collaboratively with other public, private and community organisations.
4 To develop and implement a new marketing strategy making full use of new technologies and social media.

Internal Processes
1 To assess the current and future recruitment needs of the organisation are and to work to secure the necessary resources to meet those needs.
2 To understand the Information Technology requirements of the organisation and to meet those needs throughout the lifetime of this plan.
3 To maintain and enhance the membership of the Beyond Skin Board.

Learning & Growth
1 To develop the skills of each member staff through a staff development plan linked to competencies related to individual roles.
2 The management Board will identify Board training needs and ensure that these needs are met throughout the lifetime of this plan.
3 A programme of artist development will be designed and implemented over the lifetime of this strategic plan.