This afternoon while the AS groups were in their exam, I did some research into initiatives having some success in Belfast with reducing the amount of division in the most deprived communities. I came across a scheme I feel are well worth discussing with reference to 4B - the Re-Imaging Communities Programme, set up by the Arts Council.
This programme started in 2006 and was created with a view to address the problems faced by Belfast in terms of the sectarian symbolism, from both sides that is clearly evident across Belfast today. Indeed we have discussed on many occasions in class that having such a vivid and public display or loyalty to one cause or another, or a mural designed to commemorate specific events from the Troubles, could lead to further feelings of segregation and separation within neighbourhoods. However, the murals are an important part of Belfast's past, and many do not want them simply white washed and removed from the streets. Furthermore, as the Student blog so accurately points out, progress cannot be made by simply eradicating culture and tradition, or the history of an area, no matter what that history is.
Enter the Arts Council, they have now provided £3.5 million in funding for what has now become a collection of 123 new murals. The project has been community based from the start, and is designed to make it accessible to all backgrounds and groups within Belfast. There are a number of organisations involved, including the DFSD, NI Housing Executive, The Police and the Arts Council. The grants have been awarded to projects proposed that address the issue of community relations in some way, encourage cross-community or multiracial interactions and this has led to a number of new relationships being formed. 63% of the projects have been community managed, and have involved 6,893, with a further possible 2000 artists, consultants and volunteers.
The Executive summary of the review of the work can be found in the summary through this link
Here are some other examples taken from the review of the project in the Guardian
The murals are also now a major tourist attraction in Belfast, see this website for a link to tours of the walls and some examples of the murals. This companies website has lots of photos of murals and outlines the arguments for not getting rid of them.
And finally a show uploaded to YouTube discussing the differing views on marching season and a tour of the walls