Re-imaging Communities

New artwork brings Shankill generations together

Work has been completed on a new, iconic artwork reflecting the importance of family life to different generations living in Belfast's lower Shankill area.

Part of the ongoing joint Arts Council and Belfast City Council ‘Re-imaging Communities’ programme, the digital artwork, erected at the Shankill Service Station at Muck Hills, uses photography and poetry to celebrate the people of the area and portray their cultural heritage.

The artwork was created by artist Steven Tunley, who worked with the Hammer Women’s Group and young people from the Hammer Youth Club. Tunley said of the experience:

'I was absolutely delighted to work with the members of the activity club. They were always open to new ideas and expressed themselves in the artwork they produced - the lanterns they created depicting their homes were as individual and creative as any work I’d seen.

'The candid photographs they took of their home and family lives, the wonderfully expressive stories and histories told to me by the Hammer Women’s Group’ and the poems of Alfred Haslett, the ‘Shankill Bard’, all combined to help create a snapshot of the lives that call the Shankill area home that I hope will resonate with everyone.'

'Working in and around the area these past months, I was always somehow surprised by the level of support, acceptance and openness I received. I shouldn’t have been, as the Shankill is a vibrant area with a richness in its community that I was happy to have worked with. I would be proud to do so again.'

The finished work was officially unveiled on Wednesday September 9 by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, councillor Naomi Long, who said:

'The concept of renewal, change and respect lies at the heart of the ‘Re-imaging Communities’ programme, which recognises the importance of creativity in all its manifestations and in all our lives, reflecting the heritage of our communities in a positive manner.

'One of the most public representations of that ethos is within the realm of public art which enhances our environment and celebrates our identities, and this project is a commendable addition to our growing portfolio of new public art across the city of Belfast.

'What is particularly pleasing about this project is that it has brought together the different generations, breaking down the misconceived barriers between young and old to tell their mutual story – a story which continues to be told and which continues to re-invent itself, alongside both the Shankill community and the city as a whole.'

The Muck Hills project is the eighth of 11 re-imaging schemes across Belfast to be completed. The other three will be completed by the end of September.

Ceramic mosaics on one of the city’s first peace walls, at Bryson Street in the Short Strand, a new mural, inspired by Tom Kerr’s poem, ‘The Sky’, in Conway Street, ten new murals, replacing former paramilitary ones, in the lower Shankill, and new murals in Donegall Pass and Glenbryn, commemorating the Battle of the Somme and local cultural icons respectively, have been unveiled over the past month.

Two new commissions also have been completed at either end of the lower Ormeau Road – one on a wall in Balfour Avenue, reflecting the area’s close connections with the River Lagan, and the other a sculpture on the railway bridge beside The Gasworks.

The remaining projects at Ballysillan Park and the Inverary area and around the bridge in Tate’s Avenue will be completed within the next few weeks.

The initiative is being funded through the Arts Council’s ‘Re-imaging Communities’ programme, on behalf of the Shared Communities Consortium, which is helping to transform local communities across Northern Ireland by tackling the visible signs of sectarianism and racism and creating a more welcoming environment for everyone.

Commenting on the project, Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Chair of the Shared Communities Consortium, said:

'The ‘Re-imaging Communities’ programme is committed to building a shared future for Northern Ireland, that is founded on partnership, equality and mutual respect.

'The completion of this artwork in the lower Shankill is the result of the community’s joint efforts. Working together with a professional artist they have created a new public artwork which has enriched the environment and provided an opportunity for members of the local community to work together towards one common objective.'