Funding for Bogside mural illumination to be explored

Bogside murals. 3003JM15
Bogside murals. 3003JM15

Derry City and Strabane District Council has been in talks with the Bogside artists about floodlighting their ‘iconic’ tourist draw, the People’s Gallery,’ in and around Rossville Street.

The Council is exploring ways of funding the illumination of the murals, which tell the turbulent story of the local area, and attract visitors in their droves.

Local political representatives are agreed such a move would have the desirable twin effects of improving the tourism offer in the city, as well as making the area more secure for residents.

Back in September 2015 the Council provided a one-off £30,000 investment to refurbish the murals in Rossville Street.

Now, at the latest meeting of the Council’s Business and Culture Committee, members have agreed to engage with the artists to try to identify an appropriate funding stream for the project.

Council Business and Culture Director, Stephen Gillespie, told members there were several options available including Derry City and Strabane District Council jointly picking up the tab with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).

“We can fund it but it would have to come out of our revenue,” he said.

He explained this would only be permissible if the project was deemed to be of strategic significance; attracted significant additional funding; and met the objectives of a relevant Council strategy.

Mr Gillespie said “you could argue that it was of strategic importance” but recommended instead that the Council consider four options: an application through the ‘Urban Villages’ scheme; an application under Tourism NI’s Lighting Strategy Phase II; and application to the Department for Communities; and direct funding jointly shared by the Council and NIHE.

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said that, as a native Bogsider, he supported the recommendation.

“These artworks are commonly known as the Bogside murals but they are world-renowned. People come from all over the world to see them and to hear the stories.

“Lighting them would be a very good idea and I say that as boy who grew up in the Bogside.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue said: “We would also acknowledge what the lighting strategy has done in improving the appearance of heritage buildings.

“This would enhance the tourism offering but it would also improve security for people living in the Bogside.”

Independent Darren O’Reilly, describing the murals as a “valuable asset,” introduced the novel idea of projecting images onto another nearby icon, Free Derry corner.

“There’s a lot of manpower taken up in painting Free Derry Corner,” he said, suggesting it could alternatively be lit with projections.

DUP Alderman David Ramsey said it was important murals in loyalist and unionist areas of the city aren’t forgotten.

“There’s obviously a lot of good work with murals in the city but there also issues in the Waterside and Fountain.

“I’d like to let the Council know that there will be group coming forward in the future.”

“It’s important that all the murals in the city are brought up to scratch.”