It is known that the world renowned paintings formed a significant element in the bid for the UK accolade and are unquestionably the most famous murals in Ireland. Nevertheless, these iconic examples of political art have been severely neglected by arts funders in the North and by Derry’s council in particular according to the artists. Scant funding has been offered them since 2005 and precious little prior to 2004 to renew or maintain these twelve enormous murals that depict over three decades of the Troubles that beset the province since 1969. Applications to other funding bodies such as The Northern Ireland Arts Council, were, according to spokesman Tom Kelly, “simply stonewalled or ignored to the point that over the last five years or more we simply gave up applying. We are aware that there has been a unilateral policy of dumbing down our history that appealed greatly to Unionists and of course Westminster;
Mr. Tony Monaghan of the Economic Development Committee has been tasked with sourcing the necessary revenue to enable the three artists to bring back to their former glory the murals they began painting in 1994. The Bogside Artists of course are among the most famous Irish artists around and are well known in the graffiti world as leading lights in the genre of street art. It is said the artist Banksy, a known fan of theirs, was inspired by their work.
The cultural and economic benefits of the murals were recently highlighted on Radio Foyle (Oct/23rd) when Tom Hall of the Lonely Planet gave high praise to the murals as a significant draw card making Derry one of the top four cities in the entire world to visit in 2013. And in a survey conducted by Dr. Martin Melaugh of Incore (Magee University) the murals were cited as the number two draw in the city even though not a single penny had ever been spent by the council in marketing them over the years, unlike their rival the city walls in the promotion of which millions have already been spent.
Said Tom Kelly: “We made it abundantly clear to council both in our deposition and since, that we do not wish to be funded by the City of Culture committee. We do know that upwards of £20 million has been allocated for art events in the city during 2013 but we want none of it. We are happy to see the council make this very long overdue decision but experience has taught us that we will believe their pledge is legitimate when they actually honour it, as we have been disappointed by similar pledges too often in the past. However, to make matters easier for them we have requested a sum of £25,000 to kick us off. Our intention is to return our work to its former glory and this we shall do.”
Among the funding bodies Mr. Monaghan will approach on behalf of The Bogside Artists will be ILEX, DCAL and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, none of whom over the past seven years, according to Tom Kelly, has shown “any supportive interest whatsoever in the famous murals or in us who painted them”.
The three artists recently returned for Maribor, (Cultural Capital of Europe for 2012) Slovenia where they painted a mural that was unveiled by the Dalai Lama.
You can find out much more about the famous murals and The Bogside Artists from the net.