ARTICLES & TRIBUTES 

Tributes

Since their creation the murals have undergone various changes. In 2015 the portraits of John Hume and Ivan Cooper were added to the Civil Rights mural. Hume, a Catholic, and Cooper, a Protestant, were co-founders of the non-sectarian Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). Although both now quite frail, they attended the unveiling on 16th October and spoke a few words paying tribute to the artists and the Civil Rights movement in Derry. Ivan Cooper said:

“I am an old man now but I am still so very proud of what the Civil Rights movement achieved, not just in Ireland but across the world. I am most proud of the fact that our achievement came through non-violence and this mural will teach today’s generation a lesson that your goals can be reached without the use of bombs or bullets. … It is a great honour for me to be remembered in this way. I believe the anti-sectarian message which this mural sends out is as relevant today as it was in the 1960’s and 70’s.”

 

And John Hume spoke the following words (excerpts from a longer speech):  

“I am delighted to be here today to see the refreshed mural which the Bogside Artists have completed which honours all those who were active in these marches. The terrible injustices of the 1960’s and the decades before underlines the inescapable need for political change. … The unemployment was over twenty percent and over ten percent of people were living with their families in one room. … This was the situation in 1968 when the Civil Rights marches started and the rest of the world was alerted to the appalling situation which prevailed in this gerrymandered city. The demands of the Civil Rights movement were basic – One man, one vote; points system for allocation of houses; repeal of the Special Power Act and the disbanding of the B-Specials. The movement was inspired by Martin Luther King and his philosophy of non-violence. After the marches of October 5th and November 16th … the Housing Executive was created for a fair system of housing. The Civil Rights Movement in Derry in 1968 had people from all walks of life and all traditions and was totally anti-sectarian and non-violent. I wish to convey my sincere appreciation to them and to all those who worked tirelessly to make this happen. I hope The People’s Gallery goes from strength to strength. They have my congratulations for their tenacity down through the years and for the vision they have always shown.”

UTV’s North West Correspondent Mark McFadden, reporting from the Bogside, Evening News, 8th April 2015:

“The desire to create art reflects the need to tell a story no matter how difficult, painful or controversial that may be. Only in this case, the entire street is the artists’ canvas.”

Brian Friel (1929-2015), Irish dramatist from Derry:

“The work of the Bogside Artists is celebrated locally and internationally, but it is their reputation that is important both to the artists and to their locality. The work is remarkable in that it is simultaneously a vibrant response to events still vivid in the psyche of the community and, even as it testifies, it transcends those immediate passions and proposes an historian’s distance and objectivity. The work says: You know the people in these pictures because they are your neighbours and your allies and you know what they endured; but have you thought about them in this way as a people caught up in a chaos of tumultuous events and at the same time taking control of those events and shaping a new destiny?

Because we, the Bogside Artists, believe that that is what has happened. That is what we are talking about. This dual vision is made insistent by the theatricality of the events depicted, by the almost surrealism of the painting technique, by the political awareness that animates every event depicted, and, of course, by the very scale of the work and its dominant location in the centre of communities.

This is work of conscious ostentation, of deliberate defiance. It is work that Diego Rivera would have approved of. But it has delicacy too. Every mural explains - but it also embraces. Every mural instructs - but at the same time each has the intimacy and the consolations of a family photograph. These murals tell the city about itself, what happened to it over the past seventy years and what futures may be available to it. I suspect the Bogside Artists have a lot of excitement squaring up each new virgin gable and a lot of fun endowing it with eloquence. They are important people. I wish them well.”

“The murals expressed the fears and memories of the people and, in doing so, assisted them in their struggle for human and civil rights, for peace and justice.”

Eoin Murray, writer and human rights activist based in Gaza 

“Tom, a Christian from Derry’s Catholic Bogside area, is a community artist, and sees his job and faith as quietly helping build bridges between the Catholic and Protestant communities riven by a quarter of a century of violence and murder. ...That Tom was recently asked by a Protestant area of the city to paint three huge new murals over three paramilitary ones already there testifies to the quiet influence he is having in Derry. He truly is a living embodiment of what it means to be a Christian living over society’s faultlines. Tom is also an example of how one man can make a difference, how by using your God-given gifts for His glory you can help bring a spirit of reconciliation and peace into the midst of the most unsettled of situations or circumstances. It can be done."

Tony Campolo 

From: Stand Up and Be Counted: How to Change the World for Good London: Marshall Pickering, 1993. Re-issue from 1991; pages 68-70.

“These murals tell a story, make a political point or record events from recent local history. They are a powerful medium; they represent a genuine form of creative expression that has emerged from the community. The Bogside murals are splendid examples of original, popular and imaginative political art of the period and deservedly attract great interest from tourists and locals alike.”

                                   

Bishop Edward Daly (1933 – 2016)

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