Belfast Telegraph

Mural removal sets the wrong tone

By Dave Whelan

AN iconic mural which caused widespread outrage when it was removed may be set to go back up – but no one is making any promises.

The slogan 'Teenage dreams so hard to beat' was removed by the Department of Social Development as part of a public realm scheme to the horror of many Belfast commuters and music lovers.

Appearing on the Bridge End flyover in east Belfast the day after the death of legendary broadcaster John Peel in 2004 – the graffiti depicted the line from the Undertone's famous hit Teenage Kicks – later appeared on Peel's gravestone.

At a meeting between the Belfast City Council's Development Committee last week it was agreed that funding would be provided towards the restoration. However the decision will require the backing of the full council next month.

It has now emerged that neither Belfast City Council or the DSD – which is consulting on a £300,000 public realm scheme with East Partnership and the Ballymac Friendship Trust representing the area – will confirm that the mural will definitely be repainted.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council confirmed that possible funding for a "complementary" project for the DSD public realm scheme was discussed at the restricted meeting.

At the time community groups denied that they had been involved in any consultation about the removal of the piece but it is expected that they now will be consulted on what will now go up in the space.

A spokesperson for the DSD said: "Community representatives from the area are working with the department to develop a proposal to bring together teenagers from the Short Strand and Newtownards Road area to design alternative community art work in this location.

"The department has funded similar schemes in other locations and does not foresee any issue with an agreed new community mural, subject to consultation with DRD Roads Service who own the wall."

Adam Turkington of Seedhead Arts and director of Belfast Culture Night, who has been leading the campaign to have the mural restored to its former glory said that mural should be recreated "in the spirit in which it was originally intended as opposed to some community mural where Catholics and Protestants are holding hands".

"Whenever it came down, I think everybody was staggered that nobody thought it was important," he said.

"At least there is some kind of sense that maybe politicians are listening at this stage.

"I think most people who lived in east Belfast felt that it said something and stood as a counterpoint to what was on the walls on the rest of Belfast and east Belfast in particular.

"I think it is really important that what replaces it means something and I hope the original artist would be involved."

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