Belfast Telegraph

Flying flag for brighter future in memory of murdered teen

By Anne Madden

Belfast is famous for flag-flying - often for the wrong reasons. But a new display of bunting with a difference is being hoisted across the peaceline in west Belfast today without a political emblem in sight.

Thousands of people on both sides of the community and overseas have created 10,000 art flags depicting hope and peace in what will be the largest public exhibition of community art in Belfast.

The year-long Belfast Flags project is in memory of schoolboy Thomas Devlin who was murdered six years ago this month in an attack that shocked the whole community.

The colourful flags have been created by scores of community groups, schools and individuals, both young and old.

Artist Raymond Watson was inspired to organise the project after seeing thousands of Tibetan ‘prayer’ flags while on a trip through the Himalayas.

“A lot of my art is around conflict resolution,” he explained. “I was travelling through the Himalayas and I saw a couple of towns which had thousands of Tibetan prayer flags containing wishes for the future. I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do a similar project here’.”

The only remit for the project was to create bright and colourful messages for the future of Northern Ireland. Raymond estimates around 8,000 people responded by making one or two flags. Many of the triangles which make up the bunting feature the words ‘Love’, ‘Peace’ and ‘Hope’.

One child from Strandtown school in east Belfast has drawn a single red flower against a blue sky with the words ‘Hope + A Future’.

While the vast majority of flags were crafted locally, there are also contributions from as far afield as Australia. An aboriginal and white school created flags displaying their hopes for a brighter future.

“We’ve had flags from all over Europe, the USA and England,” Raymond said.

The race has been on this week to stitch all 10,000 flags together to make the bunting which is more than a mile-and-a-half long. The bunting will run along the interface between the Shankill and Falls, along the peaceline.

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