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Hit the North festival: Belfast streets given much-need splash of colour

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Graffiti artist Kerrie Betty on Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Graffiti artist Kerrie Betty on Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Graffiti artist Kerrie Betty on Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

A much-needed splash of colour has been added to the streets of Belfast thanks to the annual Hit the North festival.

With the help of almost 40 artists from all across Ireland, the buildings which line Kent Street and Union Street in Belfast city centre were used as the canvas for Ireland’s biggest street art festival.

The initiative was spearheaded by Seedhead Arts and the Community Arts Partnership, and was sponsored by Hennessy.

Adam Turkington, organiser of the event and co-owner of Seedhead Arts, said that Hit the North, which is now in its seventh year, is normally an international festival with artists travelling to Belfast from Australia, the United States and all across Europe to take part.

“This year, obviously due to the pandemic, we have focussed primarily on Irish artists and I think it worked brilliantly,” he told the Sunday Life.

“We had to push the festival back for four months, as it was initially meant to take place in May, but I can’t think of a more ‘pandemic-proof’ festival to host than a street art festival; it’s outside, the artists are all at least two metres apart and most of them are wearing masks!”

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Hit The North Adam Turkington event organiser with graffitti artists Danni Simpson and Kerrie Betty on Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Hit The North Adam Turkington event organiser with graffitti artists Danni Simpson and Kerrie Betty on Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Hit The North Adam Turkington event organiser with graffitti artists Danni Simpson and Kerrie Betty on Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Adam said that there are two aspects to street art; the action itself and the legacy it leaves.

“The festival was a great way to be able to get the community together, as well as supporting artists in a safe and socially distanced way, all while brightening the streets of Belfast; I think it worked really well,” he said.

“The artwork left from the festival will help to highlight to the wider public how art and artists have a very important part to play, especially at a time like this.

“It was a great spirit-lifting event and it’s nice to know that you’ve brightened someone’s day by making the streets look a little less grey.”

He added that the act of painting murals is an especially potent art form in Northern Ireland.

“We can speak the language of murals better than most, and we know just how important they can be in our creative expression,” he said.

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Graffiti artist Danni Simpsonon Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Graffiti artist Danni Simpsonon Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Graffiti artist Danni Simpsonon Kent Street, Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly 25-09-2020

Kerrie Hanna (@kerriedraws), one of the artists involved in Hit the North, said that the festival offered “opportunities for connection” and “a special sense of community”.

“It has definitely benefited the art scene in Belfast by providing space for not only the experienced graffiti artists but also relative beginners to creating murals like myself,” she said.

Street artist Danni Simpson, who is originally from Australia but is now based in Belfast, added that these kinds of arts festivals help to allow the public to engage with creatives.

“It’s so important to promote the arts, especially in times like this,” she said.

Belfast artist ‘Wee Nuls’ added that this kind of art is so important around the city “as it makes it a more colourful and interesting place to live.”

Sunday Life