The Bogside Artists have secured £20,000 from the Housing Executive to restore four iconic murals in the ‘People's Gallery’.
The murals, which number 12 in total, along with Free Derry Corner, draw thousands of tourists from across the world into the Bogside area of Londonderry every year.
A spokesman for the Housing Executive said: “Between 1994 and 2008 the Bogside Artists completed 12 murals that now form The People’s Gallery along Rossville Street.
“These large-scale murals have become an important part of the physical and social landscape of Derry. All of the murals are located on NIHE end gable walls.
“However, due to exposure to the weather the murals will need regular attention if they are to survive into the future and a number of them are currently in very poor condition.
“The Housing Executive has therefore agreed to provide funding of £20,000 to the Bogside Artists in order to assist the renovation and restoration of four iconic Bogside murals.”
Brothers Tom and William Kelly, along with Kevin Hasson, painted the first of the 12 murals in 1994, but a restoration project for the area by the Housing Executive almost saw them wiped out.
Tom said: “We had painted perhaps the three best known murals — the boy in the gasmask, Bloody Sunday and Bernadette McAliskey [Devlin] when the Housing Executive began a major and very necessary renovation project in the Bogside installing central heating, double glazing and insulation work, but this meant that these murals would be destroyed.
“A petition from local people calling for them to be protected was taken to the Housing Executive and Sean Mackie in particular and they were very sympathetic and the murals were saved then.
“In fact the Housing Executive, instead of pebble-dashing the gable wall, plastered them in a such a way as to give us what amounted to a blank canvass to work on.
“The Housing Executive have remained supportive of our work ever since and they can see that the murals and our work is non-propagandist and in fact did away with ugly, sectarian graffiti that had been in the Bogside.
“We remain very grateful to the Housing Executive for this latest grant they have given us which we will use to buy paint, lacquer materials and equipment for the restoration work that's needed.”
SDLP local election candidate Emmet Doyle welcomed news the Housing Executive has allocated £20,000 to the Bogside Artists to restore four of the murals in The People’s Gallery.
Mr Doyle said it is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the artists to have secured the funding and continue to show their love of the Bogside and the people of Derry by restoring murals that attract thousands of people into the Bogside every year.
Mr Doyle said: “I am absolutely over the moon that the Bogside Artists have secured this funding from the Housing Executive.
“It truly is refreshing to see a public body such as the Executive investing in The People’s Gallery — a focus of pride for the people of the Bogside and the entire city.
“The three men that constitute the Bogside Artists, Tom Kelly, William Kelly and Kevin Hasson have put this city on the map of the art world for many years and have the support and admiration of its people for their work.
“I have long been a supporter and admirer of the Bogside Artists and The People’s Gallery that has stood in the Bogside telling the story of our chequered history.”
He added: “There are some in the city who would wish to see the gallery re-imaged but, the reality is, they attract innumerable visitors to our city; they are known worldwide and right across Derry, and they occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of our people.
“This funding will enable the artists to restore four of the murals and bring them back to their original pristine condition.
“This is welcome news for the Bogside.
“We all have a duty to protect The People’s Gallery. It is about and for the people of Derry.”