31 August 2007

Peace in Northern Ireland brings together more strange bedfellows.

Having seen Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness working together I suppose anything is possible in Northern Ireland these days (although finding out that Martin McGuiness was an avid cricket fan did push the bounds of astonishment to its very limit!). In such a climate it comes as no huge surprise to hear of an artistic collaboration between a former republican prisoner and the son of one of Northern Ireland's best-known loyalist leaders.

Danny Devenny, who began to design murals and posters while serving time as a republican prisoner in the H-block, and Mark Ervine, the son of the late David Ervine, who was head of the Progressive Unionist party ( the political wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force) have already worked together on two spectacular new murals in Belfast. One is a version of the famous Picasso painting Guernica, the other a celebration of the International Brigades who fought against Franco in the Spanish civil war. Now they join a proposal for the painting of a dozen murals based on Beatles' LP covers, to adorn walls in Liverpool to celebrate the city as the 2008 European Capital of Culture.

"I could certainly never have imagined 20 years ago that I would be working with a former republican prisoner on this." He hoped he and Devenny would be able to work with young Liverpudlians and pass on the tradition of the mural to a city that had many links with Belfast. "It's something we feel is important because a lot of people from both communities have been involved in it.”

Devenny said he hoped that the fact the two of them were working together would encourage others to do the same. "He still has his loyalist opinions, which I respect," said Devenny, "and I still have my republican ones, but we found we had so many things in common. We wanted to show people, and particularly young people, that if we could work together anyone could."

Their work was spotted by Peter Morrison and Gregory Brennan, two Liverpudlians who went on the murals tour during a visit to Belfast in 2005. They decided that the murals and the team behind them could make a permanent difference to the Liverpool landscape and approached the two men with the idea for what is now called the Liverpool Mural Project. "What a great example for cross-community relations in Liverpool," said Mr Morrison. "It could lead to so many other things and could be an example for other conflict zones."

The idea was taken to the body handling the plans for Liverpool's year as the city of culture, the Liverpool Culture Company. "They turned it down and told us they didn't think it was 'edgy enough', but we are determined to see it happen," said Mr Morrison. Now a campaign has begun to urge a change of mind. Those involved say the project would be a great way to brighten up Liverpool and would not cost much.

The idea also has the backing of writers and academics in Liverpool and Belfast. Jimmy McGovern, the Liverpool scriptwriter who penned Cracker, Priest, and Hillsborough, is urging the organisers to co-opt the idea. "God knows the Liverpool Culture Company needs a winner or two right now so when something as inspired as the Liverpool Mural Project comes along you'd expect the company to grab it with both hands."


Anonymous said...

sounds like a great idea

jams o donnell said...

It certainly is. I hope it goes forward