Artist Terry Bradley has said it’s an “incredible honour” to have one of his signature Dockers pieces featured in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s seven-times Oscar-nominated film Belfast.
A huge mural of the north Belfast man’s Docker’s Rest at Hickson’s Point, Titanic Belfast, appears at the start of the film, recreated in vivid blue and repositioned on a wall.
As the camera leads the audience over the wall, from the contemporary, colourful city into the black and white Belfast of 1969, Bradley’s artwork is the last main splash of vibrancy viewers see. However, there are occasional momentary flashes of colour showing Branagh’s love of the cinema as a child.
Now a giant replica of the artwork, featuring nine dockers painted in striking blue, with a similarly-toned background, is to be painted as a mural on the peace wall at Lanark Way in west Belfast.
It will be painted by a locally-based artist specialising in spray paint, based on Bradley’s revised artwork that features in the film.
Bradley, whose paintings have appeared in TV shows including EastEnders and Vera, said: “I got an email a while back asking if Docker’s Rest could be used in a movie Branagh was making about Belfast.
“I had been commissioned to paint a piece for Hickson’s Point and that was the image they wanted to use. I presumed it was some type of documentary-style film, with Branagh walking around the streets of Belfast, talking about his childhood.
“To be honest I pretty much forgot about it then, until the trailer came out and I realised this was actually a really big deal; it’s a Hollywood movie that’s being seen around the world.
“The artwork has been changed slightly, it has been recoloured blue and repositioned on a wall instead of a building. But the fact the image takes the audience over the wall, from colour to black and white and from present to past is amazing. It’s an incredible honour and I’m absolutely delighted.”
What makes the use of Bradley’s artwork even more personal is that, like Branagh, he came from a working-class part of north Belfast and grew up there around the same time. While Branagh’s family relocated to England at the outbreak of the Troubles, Bradley’s left the Manor Street area and moved to Carryduff on the outskirts of the city. And like Branagh, Bradley was also nine years old at the time.
“I understand Branagh’s story because in a way, mine is quite similar,” he said.
“The dockers who feature in my paintings are often real characters; men I remember walking home from the shipyard when I was a child.
“My paintings feature strong men and strong women who have been through tough times but are still standing, and that’s the same as the people in the film Belfast. Those people had a profound effect on me as a child.”
The Department of Justice and a local cross-community group commissioned Bradley to come up with a piece that could be turned into a mural at Lanark Way, so he painted the exact replica from the film. Northern Ireland-based artist Friz, who painted Bradley’s murals in Belfast and Bangor, is expected to bring the movie one to life at Lanark Way.
Bradley’s work has been snapped up by customers as far afield as Australia and the US and hangs on the walls in the European Union’s Brussels office.
He added: “I was really shocked when I first saw the trailer and saw just how massive Docker’s Rest was. I want to show Belfast and its people in a positive way with my art and Branagh’s film does the same.
“There are so many great artists in Northern Ireland that he could’ve gone for, so I’m very proud and delighted that he chose mine.”