Experiencing Interruptions?

The Road to Purgatory

Do wars really end?

The road to Purgatory was paved in 1998, the year the Good Friday Agreement sought to bring an end to three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. However, the political institutions that were subsequently established were built on the idea of forgetting, instead of resolving. Voices were lost. Truths never emerged.

The notion of Purgatory, this nothing place between heaven and hell where sins must be repented, provides a framework to explore life ‘after’ conflict. The video work documents the physical journey to what is believed to be the earthly location of Purgatory, an island on the Irish border. Along the way, short stories interject, casting the shadow of a conflict that lives on.

  • Ashleigh Wilson
  • Ashleigh Wilson
  • Ashleigh Wilson
  • Ashleigh Wilson
    Key Cast
  • Berni Wilson
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    11 minutes 20 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 3, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    Ireland, United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Royal Academy of Art, The Hague
  • The Royal Academy of Art Graduation Show
    The Hague
    September 10, 2020
  • The Steenbergen Stipendium Award Exhibition
    October 8, 2021
Director Biography - Ashleigh Wilson

Ashleigh Wilson (b. 1995) is an artist & writer based between Belfast & Dublin whose practise interrogates ‘post’ - conflict narratives, micro histories & the politics of visibility. Wilson recently graduated from The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and and became the recipient of the 2020 Academy Thesis Award. Her artwork and research has been presented at venues such as The Nederlands Fotomuseum, ART The Hague, Stroom Den Haag and The Black Box, Belfast. Wilson primarily works with photographic material, archives & text to illuminate the lingering embers of conflict in N. Irish society. Currently, she is a core team member of PhotoIreland, a contributor to The Pupil Sphere as well as a freelance graphic designer and podcast producer.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Growing up as part of Northern Ireland's 'post'- conflict generation meant that almost every aspect of life was highly politicised and this, in turn, made me acutely aware of the dissonance that exists between personal and public histories. It struck me that this dissonance is the result of a long tradition of violence in our society and, slowly, this train of thought became the core of my work. In general, my practise explores the many ways that violence can manifest itself, all of the banal and peculiar forms that it can take.

This short film documents the journey to the earthly location of Purgatory which, according to legend, can be found on an island in the middle of Lough Derg on the Irish border. The format loosely echoes Dante’s Purgatorio as well as Seamus Heaney’s poetry anthology, Station Island, which details the poet’s own pilgrimage to Lough Derg. Along the way, small anecdotes testify to a range of experiences of living in a supposedly ‘post’ - conflict society, ranging from the compulsion to hide one’s identity out of fear to the alarming rates of suicide experienced by the ‘post’ - conflict generation.

The notion of Purgatory serves as a metaphor for the political vacuum Northern Ireland has experienced in the years since the peace agreement. As such, the portions of the film that dissect life after the conflict were filmed on a 1998 camcorder.

Our political Purgatory perpetuates the instability and violence that Northern Ireland has suffered for decades. Instead of maintaining a culture of silence and pushing a narrative of progress, it is my belief that we should give a voice to those whose stories have gone unheard. I feel that storytelling has a vital role to play in conflict resolution and it is my hope that by purging ourselves of the pain we can finally arrive at a point where we are able to build a shared society founded on respect for one another.