Work has started on a major re-imaging project in East Belfast which will see nine paramilitary murals removed and redesigned in the Lord Street area of the city.
Charter NI, an independent think tank devoted to studying the causes of conflict at a community level in Northern Ireland, secured £30,000 funding from the Housing Executive’s Community Cohesion budget to oversee the project. This support will allow local communities to remove the outward symbols of sectarianism through the medium of art, striving to improve neighbourhoods and to provide people with more opportunities for a better quality of life.
The Lord Street re-imaging project forms part of a wider regeneration strategy for the area called The Diamond Project, which includes plans to bring empty social housing back into use and develop an environmental scheme alongside the Housing Executive, Charter NI and other organisations.
The theme of the new art pieces has been agreed in partnership with the local community and artists from Blaze FX are expected to complete the project by the end of July.
Deirdre Crawford, Cohesion Manager at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, said: “The start of this project is significant for the local area and the feedback has been very positive. The community is pleased that this work is now taking place after a long consultation process and they would like to see more plans in progress. This activity is all part of a wider process which has been taking place for several years to change hearts and minds. It is about moving forwards and embracing peace.”
Gary Ballantyne, South and East Belfast Area Manager at the NIHE, said: “The Diamond Project has been set up by Belfast City Council to try to engage with a community that has been disengaged from organisations including our own. Our aim is to improve housing, but as you can see from the reimaging our work is about much more than just that alone. Already through the Diamond Project several ground maintenance schemes have been completed and we are considering the future physical regeneration of the area at Constance Street.”
Dee Stitt, Chief Executive of Charter NI, said: “The beginning of this work signals a step forward for the local community and it brings to fruition the positive results of many years of dialogue and conversation. Our organisation works to enable, equip and empower disconnected communities across Belfast and the reimaging work in the Lord Street area will play a crucial role in that.”