Young Musician from Cookstown asks "What If?"

In the summer of 2017 Beyond Skin & #ArtsDialogue partners facilitated workshops in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. Young people in the sessions were mentored by professional musicians led by Mark Smulian ( & Mind Harp).

The workshops were part of the #ArtsDialogue movement, an intergenerational international collective of artists, musicians, writers and peace activists from Sri Lanka, Colombia, Ireland, Afghanistan, Tanzania, England, Israel, Palestine, USA & Northern Ireland.

The aim of the #ArtsDialogue workshops in Cookstown was to use music and sound to develop encourage confidence in creative expression exploring themes around Peace and to identify talented young people who have an interest in developing their skills to assist social transformation.  Beyond Skin are leading the #Youth4Peace initiative in Northern Ireland to empower young people as agents of change.  #youth4peace activities are implementing actions within UN Resolution 2250 on Youth Peace & Security.

One of the participants was Cara Monaghan, a pupil of Holy Trinity College Cookstown who wrote a song called ‘What If’.  Beyond Skin team recorded a live version of the song and sent it to #ArtsDialogue partners The Music Project in Sri Lanka.  A few days later a video was sent back to Cara of Sri Lankan children from the Music Project orchestra learning and playing her song.

After the workshop programme the Beyond Skin team remained in contact with Cara and her mother Jacinta inviting the family to attend as special guests at the Mount Stewart Conversations Festival.  Founder and director of The Music Project Sri Lanka, Shalini Wickramasuriya attended the festival as one of the guest speakers where she met Cara and her family.

To celebrate this developing good news international story Mid Ulster Council hosted an event at Ranfurly House Dungannon whilst some of the festival #ArtsDialogue guests were still in the country - Amada Benavides (Founder & President of Escuelas de Paz / Schools of Peace Colombia), Dr. Ahmad Sarmast (Founder & Director of Afghanistan National Institute of Music ANIM). Raphael Frank (Music Producer from London) & Mark Smulian. 

The event had presentations from Shalini, Dr. Ahmad & Amada with a performance of ‘What If’ by Cara. Teachers Mr Adrian O’Donnell and Mrs Mairead Conway from Holy Trinity College also attended the event.

Since, Cara has also been performing with international musicians which included performing with Luna Abu Nassar & Gani Tamir at Women's Work Festival,  Make Music Day and collaborated with Afghan Women's Orchestra.. 

“This has been a great developing story and an example of how young people can shape the future in the present locally and internationally with their creative talents. The world more than ever needs young creative people like Cara and it is our role to give them the tools and opportunities they need to make the difference” Darren Ferguson (founder of Beyond Skin).

Cara is a very special girl with her story in the World Medical Journal as she against all odds has overcome a very rare heart condition given only weeks life expectancy after her birth. Cara proved everyone wrong and recovered fully leaving the hospital without any medication., Surgeon Dr Sands said that he will never see a case like Cara's in his lifetime.

In recent years Cara asked for a guitar and took some lessons. From that point on she found her voice and definitely confidence. In 2020 Cara was one of three girls in Northern Ireland welcomed onto a support programme by Natali Marquez Foundation with her first online concert (video link)

“Cara  - She really is very special and left here on this earth for a reason. I definitely believe that.” – Caras’ Mother, Jacinta.

UTV article link    BBC article link