“When conflict passes into tourist attraction, the world is a better place.”

Even with it being the silly season, both BBC NI and UTV went a little bit overboard with the news that the Independent’s Simon Calder had declared, and there’s no other word for the gushing reports they produced, that the UK’s top tourist attraction is “open 24 hours a day and has yet to start charging admission: the open-air gallery in west Belfast.” In the actual article, Simon Calder’s Best of Britain, he scatters the plaudits widely in the various chosen categories – and the reported section merits a brief paragraph. Just as well we’re in the process of Re-Imagining those “dark, passionate and sometimes shocking murals from both sides of the religious divide”, then… [We are? – Ed]

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  • Dewi

    Just avoid in early July.

  • sms

    come off it Pete!Calder’s remarks may offend your Political sensitivities but going by the hundreds of sightseers every day at the political murals at Northumberland Street on the Falls Road, the visitors seem to find them interesting and its not as if they have been heavily promoted by the N.I.Tourist Board, loosen up, not everything has to conform to your blinkered way of looking at things.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Dewi,

    just to go off post for a moment re. Dydd Sadwrn:

    Fe gafodd dy fechgyn hynod o drechiad.

  • Pete Baker

    “Calder’s remarks may offend your Political sensitivities..”

    sms

    Loving the capitalisation.

    But you did read the brief paragraph on “dark, passionate and sometimes shocking murals from both sides of the religious divide”?

    As I thought I had suggested, it’s a silly season article and it scatters its praise widely.. as widely as possible perhaps.

    It’s not as if Northern Ireland wasn’t in contention for any of the other categories..

    Nevermind, we are re-imagining after all..

  • I love it

    Its often aesthetically pleasing, political, international, historical and unlike much artistic endeavour comes from working class communities.

    An entirely unique phenomenon, one that given changed circumstance has massive juxtapositions displayed in public space. Freely done and freely presented.

    Utterly unique.

    He declared it his ‘Best Tourist Attraction’ and fuck the begrudgers, it is an amazing mix of politics, history, angst, anger, hope and futility.

    Even the newest one painted by Devenney and Ervine together is a statement beyond subject matter.

    Only a certain type of snob (with political baggage?) can’t see it as of huge interest and worth.

  • Pete Baker

    “Only a certain type of snob (with political baggage?) can’t see it as of huge interest and worth.”

    For, hopefully, the last time.. Calder is praising the “dark, passionate and sometimes shocking murals from both sides of the religious divide”.

    You know, the ones we’re spending £3.3million to sanitise.

    And “the newest one by Devenney and Ervine” doesn’t fall into that category.

  • I love it

    He uses the word ‘sometimes’. History is often dark and shocking.

    The question is how to you maintain a unique form of public art without promoting the anger that may have created certain elements.

    Those that would dismiss an artistic and social phenomenon as it doesn’t fit their political view or high brow aesthetic are the true whitewashers.

  • Pete Baker

    “He uses the word ‘sometimes’”

    He does. After “dark and passionate”. The “dark and passionate”, and the “sometimes shocking”, is being sanitised.. at a cost.

    “Those that would dismiss an artistic and social phenomenon as it doesn’t fit their political view or high brow aesthetic are the true whitewashers.”

    And the implication is that I have dismissed it? Where exactly?

  • Dec

    For, hopefully, the last time.. Calder is praising the “dark, passionate and sometimes shocking murals from both sides of the religious divide”.

    You know, the ones we’re spending £3.3million to sanitise.

    I wasn’t aware £3.3 million was going to both sides…

  • I love it

    You do seem to have a problem with it.

    My favourite mural set is as you go to Dundonald Icebowl – an old mural painted over with a Catholic VC winner beside a tribute to local Loyalist groups.

    Truths about the past beside reinventing the past for the future. Public art as history, past and future.

    It doesn’t need sanitised it just needs context and that is happening.

  • bob

    ‘Catholic VC winner’

    Taigs are ok as uncle Tom’s !!!

  • Pete Baker

    Dec

    The funding is not restricted.. you just need to apply.

    I love it

    “It doesn’t need sanitised it just needs context and that is happening.”

    Then you’re not reading Calder correctly.. nor paying attention to what’s going on.

  • Ben

    There certainly seem to be a lot of tourists about these days. I suppose part of the question is peoples’ (outsider and insiders both) attention to how far things have come, but more so with how far they still have to go. A mural by a “reformed” paramilitary organization gets attention, while a simple KAT on a low wall on the Shankill (and parallels on the Falls Road) is invisible to all but those who know the code. Meanwhile the poverty continues to grind, and the pols order new suits from Italy. My concern with “troubles tourism” wherever it is in the world is that it not be ghoulish or simplistic. It’s not like looking at Beethoven’s grave or Yosemite or even, dare I say it, the Somme. It’s lived pain, which continues in place. Good for the economy, but it still leaves me feeling odd. Can’t they look at ancient ruins for another generation or so? Ben

  • Sorry to introduce perspective and cold water…

    Was I the only one to notice that NI seems to qualify for barely 200 of the 3,800 words on offer? Apart from the murals, the other references were
    the faintly-dismissive:
    Belfast to Londonderry scores respectably on the global scale of great little rail journeys.
    and
    Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains are suitably brooding and, yes, mournful.

    The only other unqualified approval I could see was for:
    Rathlin Island off County Antrim. Rathlin is a model of simplicity. Imagine a bold letter L turned upside-down, and you already have a map of the island. Within the angle is Church Bay, which protects the modest harbour. If you are seeking the island’s capital, look no further: this motley collection of buildings is the central metropolis for the 100 or so islanders. Three roads straggle out from here, bearing you past abandoned cottages to rocky shores where seals play and spirits soar.

    Did I miss something?

    Why no mention of the views to Donegal and Kintyre from the north coast? Strangford, Dundrum Bay and Carlingford for wildlife (at least as important as north Norfolk)? Lakeland (surely one of the great European places to be discovered)? We can’t even manage a castle (Carrickfergus? Dunluce?) to match Kenilworth, Edinburgh, Slains or Windsor (and two of those at least are as “authentic” as Neuschwanstein).

  • ‘The UK must be bereft of tourism attractions if a mural of George Best is deemed one of its best.“

    I think the BBC and the Belfast Visitor Convention Bureau are a bit off the mark with their emphasis on the evolution of paramilitary murals. The ‘evolution’, so called, is an insult to our intelligence. The reason people want to see the murals is not because of their twee depictions of the likes of George Best and ‘Ulster Scot’ US Presidents and the Titanic. These murals are fabrications, no more, and do nothing to represent the genuine, heartfelt culture of the north. Sure they’re different from the loyalist murals which went before but to describe them as an ‘evolution’ is a joke and shows the ignorance of those who so do.

    If people want to see a genuine evolution, they should go to the Freedom Wall on the Falls Road where Danny Devenney and Mark Ervine are painting their take on Picasso’s Guernica. There’s no grants from the Ulster Scots Agency or the NITB for this – it is of course genuine art, making a strong political statement (not a paramilitary statement) about the murder of civilians during a conflict (in this case by State forces but the murder of civilians by any force, paramilitary or whatever, is equally reprehensible.)

    The BBC of course is being deliberately myopic on the question, trying to place loyalist murals (Ulster Scots and all) on the same level as the far more advanced (in most cases) republican murals.

  • G

    It’s depressing that all these ghouls come here to gawk at the murals. I don’t care if some of the more ‘violent’ ones are being replaced with ‘cultural’ ones, they all still represent ‘us’ and ‘them’ and so enforce division. They all represent spide ideologies and should be whitewashed over.

  • In Actual Fact the Picasso’s Guernica Mural on the International Wall is being sponsored by Search Engine Gasta.com and supported by Belfast Media Group, Discussions are also taking place for a open air art gallery along the whole lenght of Lanark way with a ‘Peace Platz’at the bottom to showcase outdoor sculpture,crafts and house a sunday market, all art will be completed on boards, fit into 8ft Slots and have corporate sponsorship. This is a plan that has been developed by the artists themselves and if it compliments tourism all the better. Cheap and cheerful Belfast!

  • Fotherington

    Calder’s comments seem somewhat similar to those of … what’s his name? that English artist who wears a dress? in the Times a few months back, who referred to the murals as ‘dark folk art’, somehow spilling from the Norn Iron collective unconscious. Both chaps seem to miss the point that the ‘dark’ murals (which I imagine, for them, includes both the ‘gunmen and zombies’ still lingering in loyalist areas, as well as the more sophisticated ‘hunger strikers looking like Jesus’ republican ones) are calculated gestures by paramilitary groups who have oppressed their own communities. While murals are constantly evolving (and even for those referencing the Troubles, there has been a distinct slide towards victimhood and away from aggression), they’re still mostly nasty pieces of propaganda designed by small-minded gombeens who won’t get out of their own backyards. Not ‘raw’ art spontaneously emitted by ‘the people’.

  • dewi

    “Dewi,

    just to go off post for a moment re. Dydd Sadwrn:

    Fe gafodd dy fechgyn hynod o drechiad.”

    20 awr yn hwyrach – mae’n rhan a) o gynllwyn cyfrwys – y joc yma yw bod Gareth J yn mynd i ddanfon ei drydedd tim i gwmpan y byd er mwyn cadw ei dactegau ar gyfer 2011 yn gyfrinachol !!!

    Am y to cyntaf yn fy mywyd wnes i ddim gwylio’r gem i gyd !!! Uffern !!!

  • Alan

    Best Mural I ever saw was in Springhill Estate in west Belfast.

    All it was was a painting of a cup with a scroll underneath it. Every year the names of the team that won the local five-a-side competition had their names put up on it.

    A wonderful way to link poverty, aspiration and success.