Friday, 16 October 2015

New Paint, Old Issues.

John Hume and Ivan Cooper

Today I attended the unveiling of the civil rights mural in Derry's Bogside. The mural which is one of a series of 12 murals known as the People's Gallery has been recently refurbished and now includes the late Claude Wilton, the late Willie Breslin, Sean Carr, John Hume and Ivan Cooper.

A phase synonymous with the city is 'if stones could speak'. And truly thanks to the efforts of the Bogside Artists in Derry the walls of the Bogside do, a living Gallery reflecting a history many of those who were central to pass daily. The People's Gallery presents a picture of our turbulent past with the civil rights mural not just a reminder of how more was achieved through non-violent means, but a reminder that we still face the same issues over four decades on from the original Civil Rights movement. To Quote Ivan Cooper speaking today “it was a great movement and there has never been another one like it.”

In a struggle to preserve our story the internationally lauded Bogside Artists have encountered apathy from funding bodies and what can only be described as dismissal from some elected representatives on our local council. However in the face of adversity they continue to draw thousands of people into the Bogside each year with their artworks.

It would be remiss not to give credit where it's due when speaking of the refurbishment of the murals. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive which has provided funds, and essentially owe their existence to the Civil Rights movement deserve acknowledgement. And their presence was recognised today by the press.

However many times it is those who don't hog the limelight, the linchpins, who are the central figures. One person who fits that criteria is Independent Councillor Sean Carr who features in the mural. As a Bogside resident Sean knows the value of the murals, he is as much a part of the fabric of the Bogside as the murals. Sean's modesty is such that after the party politicians had posed for photo's, the artists, organisers of the event and local activists had to call to Sean at home to get him to come over to have his photo taken, so that his role could be publicly acknowledged. With Sean was his son James a former SDLP Councillor who worked alongside his father in helping secure the funding for the murals refurbishment.
Sean pictured centre with his grandchildren

The value and importance of the murals which are one the city's biggest tourist attractions is something we don't always recognise. We've all become accustomed seeing crowds of tourists flocking to the murals to have their picture taken, yet we never think of the people who as a labour of love maintain these icons and as a Derry Mother I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Bogside Arists, the Sean & James Carr's of this city, unsung heroes who work behind the scenes preserving our history and putting the Bogside firmly on the world map for all the right reasons.

One final thing, a huge thank you to event organiser Vincent Coyle who presented me with a copy of John Hume's speech from today, signed by the Nobel Laureate himself.

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