THE MURALS ON SITE

Between 1994 and 2006 three artists from Derry, brothers Tom and William Kelly and their friend Kevin Hasson, painted twelve large murals on the gable walls of a series of flats in the Bogside neighbourhood of their city. The Bogside, its name derived from the spill-over of the nearby River Foyle that once flooded the land outside the city walls, had been the centre of the pivotal incidents that sparked the Troubles.

 

The murals can be seen from Rossville Street which runs through the centre of the Bogside. Entirely supported by local residents’ donations, their official collective name is: The People’s Gallery.

The murals depict key moments in the neighbourhood’s history during the Troubles. The three artists, each born and raised in the Bogside, painted the murals in order to remember and commemorate the traumatic incidents that shaped the lives of them and their community.

Different episodes include the early Civil Rights Marches, the Battle of the Bogside, civil rights campaigner Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Bloody Sunday, the Hunger Strike, Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and, not least, several children who lost their lives during those years, many of them family or friends of the artists.

It tells the story as it unfolded following the systemic discrimination against Catholics in housing, employment and voting rights. A majority Protestant Government supported by a predominantly Protestant police force called the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and their quasi-paramilitary reserves the B-Specials, had turned the Catholic residents of Derry into second-class citizens relegated to the slums and the estates outside its city walls.

In the late 1960’s, inspired by the civil rights movement in America, they took to the streets to protest against their marginalised status and for their right to be treated as full British citizens.

One of these civil rights marches, held in Derry on 30th January 1972, ended in a history defining tragedy. Anticipating major riots the British Government had called upon its elite Parachute Regiment to target suspected ‘ringleaders.’ At the end of the day fourteen unarmed demonstrators were fatally shot, six of them under eighteen.

Most of the shootings took place in bright daylight on the street where the murals are located. As a poignant reminder of the violence of the day, the wall on which one of the murals depicting the event is painted still contains the bullet holes of the shorts that were fired that day. The whole event left the Bogside community in shock and disbelief.

Since remembered as ‘Bloody Sunday,’ the day marked a major turning point in the history of the Troubles as it ended peaceful demonstrations, polarised the community, and radicalised many young people into joining the IRA. As Lord Saville put it in his conclusions to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry:

“What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.”

(15th June, 2010).

This was echoed by then Primer Minister David Cameron in his response to Lord Saville’s Report:

“What happened on Bloody Sunday should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and the hurt of that day and with a lifetime of loss.” 

© 2018 Art, Conflict & Remembering