The Making of ‘Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland’

The Making of ‘Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland’
Panellists will discuss the challenges of making this award winning documentary series.


7:00PM – 8:30PM

2 Royal Avenue, Belfast


Can documentaries and storytelling be a vehicle for understanding stories from a contested but shared past? Could they help us to better understand the present and inform our future?

This event will seek to address these questions and more through a panel of filmmakers and consultants to the award-winning BBC / Open University documentary series ‘Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland’.

This highly acclaimed documentary series gave voice to the powerful personal testimony of ordinary people who were involved in, and lived through, extraordinary times in Northern Ireland.

Panellists from The Open University, BBC, Walk on Air Films and KEO Films, will discuss the challenges of making the series; the relationship between memory, history, and personal testimony; and the responsibility of getting this all right.

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland was awarded ‘Best Documentary Series’ and ‘Best History Documentary’ at the 2023 Grierson Documentary Awards.


Meet the panellists:

Dr Philip O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in Environment and Politics, The Open University. Philip’s research background is in political theory with a current focus on environmental politics and Irish Politics. He worked for ten years as co-lead on ‘Time to Think: Open University Journeys in British and Irish prisons during the years of conflict 1972-2000.’  Philip will focus on his role as academic consultant on the Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland series.

Gabi Kent, Senior Lecturer in Knowledge Exchange, The Open University. Her research and praxis is in the field of conflict transformation and storytelling. Gabi began her career as a documentary filmmaker. Gabi will focus on her experience in using innovative storytelling and co-production methods to support social justice, social change and peacebuilding processes, particularly in contexts of social/political division.

Eddie Doyle, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC NI. Eddie leads BBC NI Commissioning, providing audiences with television and digital content that reflects all aspects of life in Northern Ireland. His documentary commissions include Whistleblower: The Maurice McCabe StoryThe Man Who Wanted to Fly, The Notorious Conor McGregor and now Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland. Eddie will focus on the importance of local storytelling.

Rachel Hooper, Creative Director, Walk On Air Films. Creative director at this award-winning Belfast-based production company, Rachel makes film and TV content for national and international audiences. Her films have gone on to win Grierson, RTS and BAFTA awards with recent credits going to Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland. Rachel will focus on her role as Series Producer.

Sian McIlwaine, Producer/Director, KEO Films. Sian was the Director and Producer of the Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland series. Her other credits include the BBC’s Grierson-nominated documentary DeLorean: Back From the Future and the similarly themed Netflix documentary Myth and Mogul: John DeLorean. Sian will focus on her work with the contributors across the series.

Event Partner: The Open University


We’ll be in touch.