Friday, 25 July 2014

Hot, hot, hot!

A follow up to my last blog Cultural Vandalism or lack of thought.

The heat is certainly taking it's toll even on the more level headed.

I attended a meeting tonight over plans to modernise and extend the Museum of Free Derry, otherwise known as the Bloody Sunday Museum. The meeting was compared by one man to the Derry version of the Jeremy Kyle show minus the security, lie detector machine and mediation services that said a lie detector may have been useful.

The event which was organised by veteran civil rights activist Vincent Coyle heard a range of views from residents living nearby the museum, members of the Bloody Sunday Trust, the museum manager and those there in favour of preserving Derry's world famous Civil Rights Mural.

It was clearly stated at the outset of the meeting that the organisers welcomed the development of the Museum but felt that the current design deviated from what residents and locals had given their support to.

At the beginning of the meeting one 'excitable' attendee took the microphone, accused the host/ organiser of being a mouthpiece for the Bogside artists, then stormed out when it was mentioned that his name appears on one of the murals alongside those of the Bogside artists for his contribution to the artwork, I wonder will his name now vanish from the artwork or will he claim his name was forged?

The suggestion that the host was speaking on behalf of the Bogside artists was immediately laughed off given the artists are well known for speaking out about anything that irks them, as we say in Derry “they're not backward in coming forward.”

The meeting which was packed to capacity began with a presentation which among other things showed how the plans had changed from the original plans in 2010 with a new application submitted on December 23rd 2013.

Residents including some of those directly affected by the changes made in 2013 claimed they were neither consulted about nor notified of plans to amend the original plans published in 2010.

Concerns tonight ranged from lack of consultation, antisocial behaviour, the obscuring of the iconic civil rights mural, the possible closure of a family run business and why no-one fought to save the Rossville flats!

The item which caused the most controversy was the rumour that plans for the museum may also include a type of Memorial Garden to commemorate ALL those killed  during the period more commonly referred to as the troubles including British State Forces. When the public anxiously questioned the rumour further the manager of the museum replied that the memorial garden was something they ''aspired to”  but as yet there is no definite plans which I took to mean no funding?

If I'm honest the meeting for me was somewhat of a breath of fresh air what with raised tensions and a frank exchange of views however I strongly felt the meeting lacked direction with debate venturing off into various tangents. The airing of views is laudable but to address issues you must work towards solutions and in this case with a bit of direction I believe the steps to resolving these issues are reachable with discussion, honesty, reassurance and compromise. I do have do admit I was heartened by the acknowledgement from representatives of the Museum of Free Derry that the plans could be changed.

During the meeting quite a few of the Bloody Sunday family members in favour of the new design raised the issue of their dead relatives and the importance of the museum going ahead. This was confusing as the issue has never been of the museum not going ahead, but the changes to the design.

These changes will not only obscure one of the legendary, world famous murals but also the man who owns the local shop remains in limbo as to whether the plans will put him out of business and jeopardise his livelihood. This gent asked if a representative from the Museum of Free Derry could give him an answer as to whether his shop would be accommodated, Aidan Kerr from Museum of Free Derry said he would give an answer, he did reply, but I reckon the heat must've been going for him too as his answer would have won an accolade on the floor of Stormont for the biggest load of waffle, I'm still trying to work out what he said, or indeed didn't say. A short time later all those in favour of the new plans filed out like a trail of army ants claiming they had been insulted.

The current chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust Julie Anne Campbell stated that they wanted to create a 'World Class Museum' however now the project could be put into jeopardy. This assertion does not make any sense as the planning permission for the original design still stands, not only that if the project will only be world class with the new design, was it not going to be world class with the first design?

 It would seem the heat is playing havoc with with some which was evident at the end of the meeting with a Sinn Fein Councillor telling a gentleman to expect a solicitors letter over a heated discussion they were having. Take it from someone who knows Councillor Logue they are not worth the paper they are written on.

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