Council break contact with the Bogside Artists

Bogside Artists Tom Kelly, left, and Kevin Hasson. (2901PG17)
Bogside Artists Tom Kelly, left, and Kevin Hasson. (2901PG17)

Derry City Council has broken off all contact with the Bogside Artists following controversial comments made on the artists’ social media page regarding a Council officer.

Council chief executive Sharon O’Connor instructed staff not to deal with the Bogside Artists “until further notice” as a result of the comments about a named Council staff member.

The issue arose amid the ongoing row over funding for the restoration of the Artists’ murals in the Bogside.

The group had previously requested £240,000 to upgrade the ten murals but this was rejected by Council. Instead Council offered the artists a funding package of £45,000 - made up of funding from Council and the Housing Executive - to carry out the work on three murals.

Following a proposal from Sinn Féin, Council then voted to ask the artists to carry out refurbishment work on all the murals for the £45,000 on offer.

The SDLP opposed the move and said the artists’ initial request should be granted because of their contribution to the cultural life of the city.

Writing online, the Bogside Artists rejected this offer and made remarks about a Council officer which Ms O’Connor has described as “totally unacceptable.”

In an e-mail sent to the leaders of all parties on Council, Ms O’Connor criticised the behaviour of the muralists.

“I have been contacted by members of staff with regard to [ . . .] language used by the Bogside Artists. The behaviour of these individuals to date has been poor but this latest development is totally unacceptable.

“We were tasked with sourcing funding and when we identified external funding, an application was needed from the group themselves, which they declined to do,” she wrote.

The chief executive also said that Derry City Council will no longer deal with the Bogside Artists.

“This behaviour by applicants for public funding is extraordinary. I have instructed my staff not to deal with this organisation until further notice. I will not have Council staff bullied and maligned,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for Derry City Council said it was aware of the issue and was dealing with it internally.

Elsewhere on the post on their social media site, the Bogside Artists criticised political parties and local media outlets. It is not the first time the issue of funding for the restoration of the Bogside Artists’ murals has caused controversy. Parties clashed on Derry City Council around a decision to ask the artists to carry out the work for £45,000 rather than the £240,000.