Belfast’s most notorious peace wall is destined to become an unlikely world artistic attraction after 33 renowned international graffiti artists transformed it with their trusty aerosol cans.
The plethora of sectarian and anti-social slogans that covered the wall which divides the Shankill and Falls Roads have been buried under a colourful and kaleidoscopic masterpiece — all 600 yards on the Shankill side — by the artists who converged from faraway places like Australia, California, Germany and Poland, as well as Dublin, Dundalk and Belfast itself.
The 33 ‘Meeting of Styles’ artists finished off the ribbon of artistry which was begun at Easter when 18 aerosol experts started it off by covering the first 200 yards of erstwhile eyesore wall which was constructed at the start of the Troubles to keep the warring communities apart.
The idea to transform the peace wall was the brainchild of the Ex-Prisoners Interpretive Centre (EPIC), and former inmate William ‘Plum’ Smith, community worker with EPIC, said that the artists take part in competitions throughout the world with recent events in Italy, Denmark, Italy and Poland.
“They were given their own panels of the wall — each about 25 feet by 15 feet — and set to work doing their own thing. It was all co-ordinated by European artist Manuel Gerullis. They produced works as diverse as ‘Catwoman’, ‘Space Rocket’ and ‘Future World’ as well as modernistic masterpieces that I don’t really understand but which are really superb to the eye,” said Mr Smith.
“They have transformed the wall from being a blot on the Shankill landscape to being in the top five of aerosol artistic attractions in Europe. The artists were swamped by local admirers as they went about their work. The tourists who came this way in the open-top buses were totally enthralled by the results. We reckon it’s a real winner.
“These guys are internationally renowned and the paintings have an international ethos that makes us in Northern Ireland think beyond the borders of the province and admire a real variety of styles and colour.
“They’ve transformed the peace wall from being a graffiti-covered monstrosity to a pleasing work of art. Most of them paid their own travel expenses, EPIC sponsored their accommodation and the firm ‘Montana’ supplied the paint. It’s a tremendous project.”
He added: “The timing has been just right. With the peace process taking hold, the peace wall art project was ripe for going ahead and we’re delighted.”
William ‘Plum’ Smith — who was jailed in 1972 for attempted murder — was involved with the UVF and Red Hand Commando, and is convinced that projects like the total transformation of the peace wall are the way ahead.