The People's Gallery of murals in Derry's Bogside will be illuminated at last. Last week a full council voted unanimously to do just that.
(1888PressRelease) October 10, 2016 - Last week saw a surprise turnaround by the city of Derry (N.Ireland) local council. In an unanimous vote a full council voted overwhelmingly to light up THE PEOPLE'S GALLERY of murals in the Bogside area of the city that saw so much of the troubles.
The murals are visited by many thousands of people each year from all over the world. They tell the story of the three decades of conflict preceding the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998. Many of the twelve are globally famous.
These huge murals together form what is indisputably one of the most powerful tourist attractions the city has, if not the entire North of Ireland. They were painted by three local artists Tom Kelly, his brother William and mutual friend Kevin Hasson known internationally as The Bogside Artists. Said their spokesman Tom: "We painted our first mural in 1994, the first in a series of twelve situated entirely along the street where the Bloody Sunday holocaust took place that saw 14 unarmed civilians gunned down by British soldiers. It is a special street, unique in the world and our murals have defined it as such. The People's Gallery tells the history of the thirty years of conflict that have shaped the destiny of the city and the province in general. They are the most authentic expression in art form of the period. They are not sectarian or associated with any political party. They are historic and commemorative. Not a single penny was ever spent on marketing them. They have made their own way into human consciousness regardless as all good art will eventually. We are proud of what we have achieved and have the courage to say so for we alone know what has gone into our work and the colossal price we have paid for the privilege of doing it."
How and why these acclaimed works of art have been relentlessly dumbed down and kept in the dark for so long is for historians to unravel... but now all that is about to change. The art work is to be illuminated and marketed.
Lighting the murals has been seen by some as a political firecracker; and although the murals were prioritized for lighting in 2005 under the "signature plan", Sinn Fein stopped the move for reasons they never bothered to explain. Some say it was political, others that personal animosity from extreme propagandist artists within their ranks decided the issue. Perhaps the fact that they played no part in the creation of the murals bothered them. Whatever the reason, the murals were kept in the dark and completely frozen, incredibly, out of Derry UK City of 'Culture' Year 2013. The Bogside Artists honour of painting a centerpiece mural for Europe's city of culture Maribor Slovenia got a solitary, derisive mention in The Derry Journal - run as it was then by Sinn Fein. It got no mention elsewhere. Who exactly runs the media in the North of Ireland is a good question to ask under the circumstances.
For the collaborative mission to keep the murals in the dark is one in which the media as well as the Tourist Boards North and South have played a great part. No mention of the council's decision has, one week later, appeared in any of the city's tabloids or indeed anywhere else.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has also consistently shunned the artists, rejecting their funding applications de rigeur and showing nada appreciation or recognition for the artists or of their work.
Now that the welfare of the murals is firmly on the statute books it is incumbent, morally and legally on the council to fund their lighting for which the Housing Executive of Northern Ireland (N.I.H.E) have pledged match funding. As the lighting is not going to exactly break the council's bank this would seem a reasonable expectation at a minimum. It will be interesting to see if Sinn Fein have indeed buried the hatchet with the artists in favour of the electorate's welfare.
The future benefits to a city labouring under severe austerity promise to be considerable indeed if The People's Gallery is properly marketed and shared with the world. The art work has been hailed by many professionals of high repute including [b]Profs, Richard Demarco, Franco Bianchini and Adrienne Chaplin who aptly Christened the street whereon the murals are situated, "Derry's Via Dolorosa" drawing an insightful analogy with the Stations of the Cross.