The neighbouring areas of Skeogneill and Glandore in north Belfast may be geographically close but for years they have been far apart in many other ways – until a project was launched to bring the two communities together.
“Until recently”, says Community Development Worker Sean Montgomery, “someone walking their dog in the Catholic side would stop and turn back rather than enter the Protestant area.” The Revitalising Skegoneill and Glandore project was launched in 2010 to rebrand the area and strengthen ties by using public art. Graffiti has been painted over with murals, a community centre has been revamped to look more welcoming and a large sculpture telling the area’s history has been designed. National Lottery funding has paid for professional artists to ensure the job is as thorough as possible. Crucially, every artistic innovation was discussed with members of the community before it took place.
“We consulted everyone from schoolchildren to pensioners and organised workshops,” says Sean. “The idea was to make the area feel more open, friendly and welcoming.” Since the project started, the change has been “unreal”, according to Sean. Events celebrating holidays like St Patrick’s Day and Christmas have been particularly successful at bringing the two sides of the community together. Sean believes the public art element of the project has been key. “Public art is a way of inspiring people,” he explains. “It makes them feel proud of the area. There’s a definite sense of new beginnings and pride in Skeogneill and Glandore now.”
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