Belfast Telegraph

Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry says loyalist parade is ''spectacular and exotic'' in new TV documentary

A loyalist parade in Belfast has been described as "spectacular and exotic" by Turner prize winning artist Grayson Perry.

"These people are more British than the British," says Perry in a TV documentary to be screened this week.

But later he asks if the loyalists "have a clue how far they still have to travel if they are going to be embraced by the Britain they are so loyal to?"

Flamboyant Esssex-born Perry, 54, doesn't appear as his female alter ego Claire in the film in which he chats easily with loyalists about what he regards as their old fashioned, 1950s-style Britishness.

"Your very patriotism and loyalty is in some ways curiously un-British," he tells one young loyalist.

But he marvels at the passion on show as he watches a loyalist parade and tours Belfast's famous political murals for the third of his Who Are You? series of films - this one titled 21st Century Tribes.

Grayson Perry has five sitters for his banner portrait of the loyalist tribe - all from the working class lower Newtownards Road area of east Belfast.

He accompanies grandmothers Jean and Roberta as they have Union Jacks tattooed on their hands and watches a huge a march to commemorate the founding of the original Ulster Volunteer Force.

He says of the UVF parade that there was "no denying its spectacular side".

"It is like nothing else you'll see anywhere else in Britain. This is passion, it's exotic."

Grayson says of Belfast's murals: "When you walk around any town in Britain you can wonder what sort of person lives here. Here YOU KNOW. The Newtownards Road is group identity in its rawest form.

"The inheritance they shared from geography, ethinicity and blood.

"But in the Britain I am loyal to, identity isn't really like that and that is the tension I wanted my portrait to explore."

In his banner portrait he portrays Prince William's horse as "a bit jolly but also looking a bit knackered."

The artist describes the loyalist message as "rooted in a vision of Britain that doesn't completely gel with the modern 21st Century idea of Britain we have nowadays", adding that "if they want to remain loyal to it they have to got to move on too and it is all about embracing what Britain stands for today as much as what Britain stood for in maybe, like, the 1950s."

His finished work on loyalism is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London along with other works from the series which featured disgraced ex-Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne and reality TV star Rylan Clark.

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? C4 Wednesday, November 4, at 10pm.

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