Friday, 21 January 2011

Re-Imaging Communities Programme in Belfast

Dear All

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.

It can easily be argued however, that many of the murals were antagonistic, and could be viewed as aggressive or oppressive in nature, and in a community struggling to overcome its troubled past, many of these murals could be redesigned to portray a more positive and inclusive side to the city.

 This Shankill region Mural was redesigned with artist Ed Reynolds, who worked with Lower Shankill Community Association’s human rights group to create a mural that has contemporary relevance to all

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

Before: a common paramilitary image of two silhouetted gunmen commemorates the Scottish Brigade of the loyalist UDA force

After: the new image by Tim McCarthy represents an event in July 1969 in Christopher Street when children digging in the rubble of the then demolished ‘Scotch Flats’ discovered a hoard of gold sovereigns

This is an excellent example of the new message that communities are trying to spread to the current generation, peace and co-operation over fear and segregation.

An excellent description of the project from the New Zealand Herald can be found here

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

Part 1

We will watch part of this show in class next week if we have time, it is worth noting that this was part of a series called "Walls of Shame" and Belfast is by no means the only divided city. Check out some of the other episodes to look for parallels we can draw and other solutions. Remember there is no right or wrong answer, its all about justification!

We have now come up with two mediums to unite communities, the sports and the arts hold great power by making a public symbol of unity, as do organisations like NICIE. You need some suggestions for solutions, this would be a good start!

Happy reading and only 10 days left to go!



  1. Hi Millie,
    My name is Michaela Phillips, and i am currently in year 12 studying studio arts. In this subject there is a requirement to come up with a theme, that you will study throughout the year as well as you must find 2 artists of inpiration. My theme is "In every home, there is a different world". I was searchking through google images in order to find an artist of inspiration the represents the same subject matter that i wish to represent; and i found Ed Reynolds. His mural that is shown in your blog is an excellent source of inspiration for my theme, however, i have had no luck when looking for further works that he has made or been a part of. i'm wondering if you could give me anymore information on this artist?
    thanks, Michaela.

  2. Hello michaela. I have just stumbled upon this piece on walls of shame by accident and am very flattered to hear that you appreciate the human rights mural i painTed. My name is ed Reynolds and i am currently in the process of painting a titanic mural at the side of Allen s tours wall on donegall rd in belfast. Its nearly finished(it just needs to be varnished and anti graffiti coated. Go check it.out and enjoy jt!