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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Final Londonderry mural calls for peace
The artists' colourful mural with a peace emblem
The group's latest work promotes peace in vivid colours
Londonderry's murals traditionally mark nationalist or loyalist territory. But BBC's Ireland correspondent Denis Murray meets a group of artists determined to change that.

It is not what you expect - it is certainly not what I expected.

Northern Ireland is both bedecked, and bedevilled by murals.

Paintings on the gable walls in deprived working-class areas, both loyalist and republican, are there, by and large, to mark territory.

The quite deliberate message is: "You are now entering turf that belongs to us - not you," or, in Ulsterspeak, "us ones" or "them ones".

The message? In republican areas, if you are a Protestant, then you are not welcome there.

'Besieged people'

"We are a risen people, nationalist, republican and proud of it."

In loyalist areas, if you are a Catholic, then you are not welcome there.

"We are a besieged people, British, loyal to the Crown, and proud of it."

Get your head round this. Even the very kerbstones are painted green, white and orange - after the Irish National Flag - in Catholic areas, and red, white and blue - after the Union Flag - in loyalist areas.

Mural showing the youth of the Bogside taking on the police and army
The early murals were often based on photographs of famous events

So, I most definitely did not expect what I got from three working-class guys in Londonderry.

They call themselves the Bogside Artists - and during 10 years they have painted a series of murals that recall the painful moments of the past, in the area that is famous the world over.

Derry for years was the crucible of the Troubles.

But in 1994, those three guys, who grew up during the 30 years of those Troubles, and who happened to have a gift for art, started a project.

They probably did not realise then the full scale of what they were beginning, but they painted on those gable walls the things that had hurt, moved and angered them.


Bloody Sunday, when 14 people were shot dead by the British Army in 1972 during a civil rights march, the hunger strikes of the early 80s in which 10 men died - and many of them based on either photographs or news film of the time.

Tom Kelly, his brother Willie, and Kevin Hasson are deeply serious about their work.

They regard the first nine murals as snapshots of the past.

As Tom said: "This is our story... [these murals] are our front pages."

A black and white mural depicting 'Bloody Sunday'
The early murals are deliberately monochrome - brutal and stark

Necessarily, their work is political, but not in the sense of party political.

They are absolutely not sectarian, nor purely nationalist.

If anything, to me at least - and I ain't no art critic - they have probably captured some kind of universal rage, or hurt, at what circumstances, and life, have hurled at a specific community.

For sure, it is the story of the Bogside - but after all, it is their story and they do not presume to tell anyone else's story.

It has been a labour of love across 10 years.

But their 10th mural, and definitely the final one, is different.

Their early stuff was deliberately monochrome - brutal and stark - and they are, in artistic terms, figurative and literal.


The last work is much more symbolic and impressionistic.

They chose a grid of squares as the background, an equality theme - squares are equal on all sides.

And those squares are brightly coloured - again a deliberate choice - to produce a sense of harmony and well-being.

It is also placed to be the last thing you see leaving the Bogside.

Superimposed on the squares is a white outline of a dove - the eternal symbol of peace - emerging from an oak leaf - the emblem of the city and county of Derry.

The Bogside Artists run art workshops for children from both sides of the community in this deeply divided society.

They asked the kids for ideas for a peace mural, and that inspiration led to their final piece of public work.

These three men want this last mural to sum up the hope of the peace process, faltering and stalled as it may be.

And they also want it to capture the notion that the next generation might just have a better future.

And they call their work, with pride - The People's Gallery.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"The artists have lived through 30 years of the Troubles"

Paramilitary murals change with times
31 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
'Intimidated' family flees province
16 Apr 04  |  Northern Ireland
Sectarian graffiti to be removed
21 Jan 03  |  Northern Ireland
Picture gallery: Northern Ireland murals
31 May 00  |  Northern Ireland

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