NIFoundation 20110412 – Belfast Flags of Hope
Bunting Project Inspires Hope
Belfast Flags of Hope 2009
Flag flying in many parts of the world can be a contentious issue. In Northern Ireland flag flying is particularly sensitive and is a source of strong community division. To explore the issue in a positive way I designed and created the Belfast Flags of Hope project in memory of Thomas Devlin. In 2009 a pilot project was implemented with two schools, St Patrick's Bearnageeha, and Ashfield Boys School.
Thomas Devlin was an innocent 16 year old who was stabbed to death by loyalists in 2005; the project is in memory of Thomas Devlin.
Location: St. Patrick's College, North Belfast and Ashfield Boys School, East Belfast
Material: Original Designs Printed as Bunting Flags.
The project was inspired by a visit to the Himalayas where I viewed thousands of Tibetan Prayer Flags. In the Himalayas the local spiritual belief is that the wind blows the hopes and prayers written and drawn on the 'prayer flags' across the land; this acts as a force to harmonise the environment and spread good will. In the words of one local, 'The prayers are blessings blown on the breath of nature.' On viewing the prayer flags and reflecting on life in our small corner of the world, I thought to myself, 'This is what flag flying should be about.'
I worked with the pupils from the two schools to design original Belfast (Prayer) Flags; the pupils designed up their own unique flags that portrayed their positive hopes and wishes for the future.
On the 25th of June 2010 the flags were officially launched and flown in a ceremony endorsed by Jnr Government Minister Gerry Kelly and Belfast Lord Mayor Niaomi Long. A number of the flags were framed up and presented to the political leaders. The hope in 2010 was that many schools and organisations would take up the project and that the issue of flag flying could be explored in a non threatening way. A report of the launch was created on www.belfastflags.blogspot.
Dissemination of the Flags
I encouraged international groups and individuals to fly sections of these flags at 'significant sites' around the globe. People requested a section of the flags from the school project, they flew them and then sent me an image and a location where they had been flown, this was loaded onto the blogsite and some international images were included in the Belfast Flags book. In 2010 the Guinness World Record, Belfast Flags of Hope project was launched. This new project (see above) aimed to create 10,000 individually created art flags. This was achieved and the single line of 'art flags' was flown along the Falls and Shankill peace wall, a significant site of division.