21st Jul, 2017

Bloody Sunday and Northern Ireland conflict murals on display at Coventry Cathedral

Les Reid 17th May, 2017

THE enduring images of giant murals on houses which provided the backdrop to ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland are to be exhibited at Coventry Cathedral.

The Murals of the Bogside Artists come from the neighbourhood of the city that protestants called Londonderry and Catholics called Derry, which saw street battles including the notorious ‘Bloody Sunday’.

The 30-year conflict ended nearly 20 years ago on Good Friday in 1998 with a peace agreement in Belfast, in which the late Northern Ireland secretary and Coventry schoolgirl Mo Mowlam MP played a part.

The exhibition at the cathedral in the ‘city of peace and reconciliation’ is called ‘Art, Conflict and Remembering: The Murals of the Bogside Artists’.

It opens next Thursday (May 25) and runs until June 30.

The three Bogside artists whose work is featured in the travelling exhibition – Tom Kelly, Kevin Hasson and William Kelly – say that at a time of religious conflict throughout the world, this work has never been more relevant.

They want to ‘raise awareness of the ongoing pain and struggles of ordinary people as a result of the 30-year conflict’.

All three artists grew up in the Bogside during this turbulent time. Each lost family and friends.

The say the murals depict key moments in the conflict as they affected ordinary residents.

“At first sight the murals might just look like Republican protest images…but if you look more carefully, you can see they tell a story that has nothing to do with sectarianism.

“While continuing the Ulster tradition of using murals for social commentary, the artists use this medium to raise questions about the past and promote cross-community conversations.”

The exhibition consists of photographs of the murals juxtaposed with historic photographs of the Bogside during the Troubles, taken by local people as well as professional press photographers.

The cathedral says: “With its long history and ministry of reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral is pleased to host this exhibition depicting ‘art of conflict’.

“It is hosting this exhibition with awareness that these murals reflect only part of a larger narrative of conflict.

“The ‘art of conflict’ is always challenging, and the journey of reconciliation is not easy or comfortable.

“In a conflict, what one community sees as truth might look very different for the other. Our responses, particularly when we only hear form one community rather than another may, and should, in fact cause us to question our own version of ‘the truth’.

“Depicting conflict in this way enables us to hold a space for dialogue; for remembering; for feelings of hurt and anger to be put on the table; for stories to be told and heard; and for entering into someone else’s story in a way that enables us to make sense of our own.”

The trio painted their first mural in 1994 when British soldiers were still patrolling the streets.