Major exhibition commemorating 20 years of Good Friday Agreement opens

A young British soldier in Belfast, taken on a smuggled camera by LCpl Stan Holman

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies is bringing the iconic Hands of History installation across the Irish Sea for the first time, as part of a major exhibition to mark 20 years since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Opening in the University’s Victoria Gallery and Museum on March 26, Agreement: A People’s Process combines photography, painting, sculpture, installations, animation and textiles. It explores conflict and people’s capacity to build values of parity of esteem and mutual respect. In recognising both victimhood and peace-building, it examines the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, as well as violent conflict in Columbia, Iraq and Argentina.

The exhibition features:

  • Updated Hands of History installation, featuring new additions such as Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, alongside the original hand casts of Gerry Adams, David Trimble, Monica McWilliams, Mo Mowlam and other key players
  • New installation featuring keys collected from the cells and buildings of Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol
  • The first exhibition of images taken on a smuggled camera by British soldier, LCpl Stan Holman, who died in 1985 from injuries sustained in Northern Ireland
  • An animated film featuring people of all ages reading excerpts from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement aloud.
  • Textiles created in tribute to 360 innocent individuals not involved in proscribed organisations, to demonstrate the human cost of violence and terrorism.

Keys from Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol have been turned into an artwork

Institute of Irish Studies Director, Professor Peter Shirlow said: “Agreement: A People’s Process shows us that peace-building does not belong to a political elite and reminds us that it is the courage and creativity of people’s commitment to transforming conflict where we find creative and inspired leadership.

Agreement: A People’s Process celebrates that commitment to engage and think imaginatively, resourcefully and inspirationally about victims, reconstruction and the recognition of harm endured.

“The exhibition stimulates how we think about the people’s process and the ways in which we stretch beyond the political and into the inspired space of OUR obligation to interdependence, mutual respect and relational change.”

Professor Peter Shirlow and artist, Raymond Watson with the Hands of History installation

Hand of History +20 artist, Raymond Watson said: “What progress has been achieved in our society over the last 25 years?

“This exhibition will explore the theme with a reinvigoration of older work alongside important new installations.

“I am very excited to have finally been able to add new hand casts of leaders, like Bertie Ahern.”

Agreement: A People’s Process opens at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool on Monday March 26. The interactive digital exhibition of Agreement is available at

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