A musician armed with a volunteering background in community aid & development experience, and working for Concern Worldwide, Ferguson was no stranger to taking the bull by the horns.
It was the combination of negative & positive social and artistic elements that led to the formation of Beyond Skin. In addition to the consistent negative stereotype of Northern Ireland regarding the sectarian conflict, in 2004 Belfast hit the international headlines as Race Hate Capital of Europe
At the time Darren was working for Concern Worldwide and along with friends that shared an interest in music and development education, recognised that the arts combined with a DE philosophy could assist greatly in addressing local issues of sectarianism and racism. But a magic ingredient was needed that would define the vision and ethos of a new organisation.
It was down to fate that this ingredient entered Darren’s life or rather his stereo through three artistic world conscience sources.
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.
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.
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.
About his project, Ferguson said: “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” he added.
The work has taken place across N. Ireland and Sri lanka no less with large programmes in Ardoyne, East Belfast and North Coast.