Belfast's streets will soon be bursting with colour. Some 400 colourful banners will be rolled out across 262 central locations and on arterial routes into the city as part of Belfast Council's 'City Dressing' initiative.
The aim of the banners, which cost ratepayers £81,000, is to make the city more welcoming and attractive. However, the colourful creations have received a mixed welcome from artists and critics.
They form part of the council City Dressing Plan to help increase Belfast visitor numbers to 2.4m by 2014.
The 12 unique banners created with the help of schoolchildren are each inspired by a particular landmark or element within the city.
They will be hung up from now until November, and then stay in place for three years, with new patterns introduced at Christmas time and throughout 2012 and 2013.
Shonagh Donegan (15) from Divis Youth Project helped research the project by taking "positive photographs" of west Belfast to inspire the artwork for the banners.
"They are really good and they help brighten the streets," the St Louise's pupil said.
Alderman Christopher Stalford, chairman of Belfast City Council's development committee said he is satisfied the banners are good value for money.
"I hope we can demonstrate through the use of these banners the outlay will actually help to attract a much higher return than the outlay.
"Anyone who knows my record in local government knows I would not support anything that I thought wasn't value for money and this certainly is."
The DUP man was in jovial form when the Belfast Telegraph asked him which banner was his favourite.
"I'm disappointed we didn't get Sandy Row in as one of the themes," he said.
"Everyone knows Sandy Row and the Ormeau Road are the best parts of Belfast!
"I was taken by the one of the starlings you see by the bridge, so obviously one of the children when they were asked what Belfast meant to them, this was the image that came into their head. Very imaginative."
Mr Stalford said a further 10 banners had been purchased by the council to promote Belfast as a city of festivals and he hoped they would help make Belfast the "number one tourism destination on the island".
He added: "We are keen that festival events are used to bring visitors into the city.
"Recently we had Orangefest and banners like that were used to advertise that festival and I certainly think we want to see those positive initiatives built upon."
Factfile: the inspiration
The banners represent images of:
- Queen's Bridge
- Starlings around Albert Bridge
- Belfast City Hall dome
- Harland & Wolff cranes
- Rose window at Clonard Monastery
- Titanic propellers
- The Mulholland organ at Ulster Hall
- Leaves found in city parks
- St Anne's Spire of Hope
- The seahorse from the Belfast City coat of arms
- Street name plates
- Gable walls