A “stupenduous act of cultural vandalism”

And in the first UK City of Culture too…  The Derry Journal reports the reaction of Australian artist, Joan Walsh-Smith, on learning that her 30 metre long public artwork, City People, commissioned in 1973 by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for the Foyle Street Urban Park in Londonderry, was bulldozed in the mid-1990s to make way for a carpark.  From the Derry Journal report

Mrs. Walsh-Smith recently queried the whereabouts of the Arts Council commissioned project after trying to locate it on Google street maps.

She says that, when she realised that Foyle Street had been redeveloped, she assumed her artwork had been relocated elsewhere or removed and preserved.

Derry City Council has confirmed that Mrs. Walsh-Smith’s 30 metre long public artwork – unveiled in the 1970s – was “decommissioned”.

Mrs. Walsh-Smith told the ‘Journal’ she was “shocked and appalled” to learn of the demolition, branding it a “stupenduous act of cultural vandalism.”

A spokesperson for Derry City Council said: “It is unfortunate that this piece of work was decommissioned and demolished and we fully acknowledge that, during its time, it served the public life of the city.“

Not only did Derry City Council not make any effort to preserve the public artwork, but it doesn’t seem like the Arts Council did either…  [Are you listening, Wolfgang! – Ed]  Indeed.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Banjaxed

    And they’re bring the Fleadh there?! What the hell are they gonna do to the music?
    ‘Derry – City of Culture’ – the best oxymoron of 2012..

  • “during its time, it served the public life of the city”

    The artist’s concept sounds very dreary and pessimistic: “Historically, the ‘nameless’ humanity moving endlessly through this space are, in the end, mere shadows upon the landscape. My sculpture captures and holds these shadows for a brief period.”

    Perhaps twenty years was long enough. The 2009-2012 grand plan for the city includes the following intent:

    Action: Reconnect the city with the sea and create maritime ambience on the shore front – “Derry by the Sea”.

    Objective: Through creative public realm, public art and maritime events (e.g. seafood market, sea angling) create a maritime ambience on the tidal shoreline.

    The work seems to have been of limited interest to the artist as she’s only just realised it has gone.

  • Mac

    “The work seems to have been of limited interest to the artist as she’s only just realised it has gone.”

    I dare say the only people that could be pushed to remember it under regression hypnosis would be a few ‘rockers’ who where more focused on slamming out power chords under the bandstand one summer in 86, and the odd ageing skater who could point it out as a backdrop from a cherished cutting in a scrap book from when RAD magazine visited ‘the year that punk broke’.

    For everyone else of a certain age it was that dreary wall in foyle street bandstand.

    Nice to see you have a new focus in the making Pete 😉

  • cynic2

    Is this the best you can do Pete?

    It was bulldozed in the mid 90s and it took 15 years for anyone to notice?

    So what? Who was interested?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Any chance someone can bulldoze that dopey wall ? You know the wan…..Free derry,City of Culture,UK. 😉

  • galloglaigh

    I played my first gig under that bandstand. I was thirteen and bricking it. Good craic, and good memories.


    There are many aspects of our history that we would all like to bulldoze on the other side of the fence. One that I would like to bulldoze, is the shrine to the RUC inside the door of the Strand Rd. PSNI station. But sure what good would it do? You stick to your side of the fence, and let us Fenians do our thing. It’s called tolerance. And yes Derry is a UK city, but it’s also an Irish city. And there is nothing you or I can do at present do change that. We have to respect each others heritage, as it is a shared heritage, albeit slightly divided!

  • Mac

    “I played my first gig under that bandstand. I was thirteen and bricking it. Good craic, and good memories.”

    Don’t be coy Galloglaigh, which band? 🙂

  • Drumlins Rock

    The thing looked more like a Cultra version of a peace wall. Where would you put it if it still existed? Anyways tell your woman that it all peacful now, the walls are coming down (except the listed historic ones of course)

  • galloglaigh

    Ah now. We were all Thirteen and from the same estate. Lazy Taurus was our name. We didn’t last long, and now I’m a solo guitarist. I couldn’t get into the rocker scene, Christy Moore was my man. Three chord wonders lite any party up!

  • galloglaigh


    The wall was replaced with nothing. Have a look on Google maps. It’s a coach park for tourists now! Bit of a shame to be honest. But sure that’s Derry for you!

  • Mac

    “Ah now. We were all Thirteen and from the same estate. Lazy Taurus was our name”

    Booo Galloglaigh, this could have been you 😉


  • Harry Flashman

    Oh God, that dreary old thing was a commissioned piece of art?
    Horrible, it looks exactly like it was; a 1970’s neo-stalinist piece of municipal art even down to the name. As I recall it was inevitably covered in graffiti and the ladies’ and gentlemen’s anatomic details were soon drawn on in indelible black marker.

    Look at the rain swept desolate pavements with the optimistically positioned utilitarian benches, urgghhh, it all brings back horrible memories of Derry in the 70’s and early 80’s. I had forgotten about the skateboarders, you could hear the relentless, clack, clack echoing off the walls and empty spaces half way across the town.

    It and the stupid little out-of-scale bandstand (wino shelter) meant to give a dainty “town square” feel to a particularly grim and run down part of the city centre (thanks IRA, you made such a difference to Derry) are no loss.

  • Drumlins Rock

    On further reflection on the installation and its title I can see its merits, from a counrty boy’s point of view 🙂

  • galloglaigh

    Nice one Mac

    I wasn’t allowed long hair till I left school, so that ain’t me. Have you any more pics like that?

  • Harry Flashman

    One thing I’m confused about is the year it was commissioned, 1973, perhaps it was commissioned then but not actually installed until several years later but I’m fairly certain that the mural and bandstand weren’t built until much nearer 1979/80.

    In ’73 that area was still being developed from a railway station and dockside into the Foyle Expressway. I am almost certain the building of the Expressway took place throughout the mid-70’s and this “urban park” (hangout for Mundies drinkers) didn’t get built until later.